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HEPATITIS B VACCINATION RECOMMENDED FOR ALL INFANTS AND ADOLESCENTS; PEDIATRICIANS TAKE STEPS TO ERADICATE VIRUS

 HEPATITIS B VACCINATION RECOMMENDED FOR ALL INFANTS AND ADOLESCENTS;
 PEDIATRICIANS TAKE STEPS TO ERADICATE VIRUS
 SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading physicians called on pediatricians to vaccinate children and adolescents whenever possible against the highly contagious and potentially deadly hepatitis B virus at a symposium here today.
 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently recommended universal immunization against hepatitis B for infants and, when funds are available, adolescents. AAP followed the lead of the U.S. Public Health Service's Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP), which recommended immunization for all newborns. But, according to some physicians speaking at the symposium, all adolescents should be targeted for vaccination.
 "While immunizing newborns is the easiest way to eventually stop the spread of hepatitis B, the benefits of this policy won't be realized for 20 years, since most infections occur among adolescents and young adults," said Raymond Koff, M.D., Chairman of Medicine and Chief of Hepatology, MetroWest Medical Center, Framingham, Mass., and Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. "Unless pediatricians vaccinate their adolescent patients today, 100,000 people may potentially die over the next 20 years from the consequences of infection which can be prevented."
 The recommendations by ACIP and AAP for universal infant immunization against hepatitis B are the first for an adult disease that is primarily transmitted through sex. Cases of hepatitis B infection have risen 77 percent in the last decade among sexually active young adults, marking the first time disease incidence has increased immediately following the introduction of a vaccine.
 Approximately 300,000 people in the United States are infected with hepatitis B virus every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and 14 Americans die every day from hepatitis B-related cirrhosis and liver cancer. One in ten people infected with the virus will become chronic carriers who can unknowingly infect others, often without suffering symptoms themselves. While the virus may also be spread through exposure to blood, sharing of needles and from mother to infant during birth, the majority of cases are now believed to be spread through sexual or intimate contact.
 "Teenagers today are at greatest risk from hepatitis B; they are likely to engage in unprotected sex, and they are just beginning their exposure to this serious virus," according to Dr. Koff. "I urge pediatricians, and other physicians who treat adolescents, to do everything possible to protect all their patients -- teens and infants -- through vaccination."
 The symposium, "Hepatitis B Today: New Guidelines for the Pediatrician," was funded by an educational grant from SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, makers of Engerix-B(R), the world's first recombinant hepatitis B vaccine.
 -0- 10/15/92
 /CONTACT: Sharyn Arnold, 215-751-7074, or Michael Seggev, 212-887-8096, both for SmithKline Beecham/ CO: SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals ST: California, Pennsylvania IN: HEA SU:


GK-EE -- NY031 -- 0487 10/15/92 13:57 EDT
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Date:Oct 15, 1992
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