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SCHOOL DISTRICTS NATIONWIDE VACCINATE EMPLOYEES AGAINST HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS HEPATITIS B VIRUS

 PHILADELPHIA, July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- School districts from Newport, Vt. to Los Banos, Calif., and many cities and towns in between, are vaccinating their employees against the highly contagious hepatitis B virus, in accordance with new U.S. government regulations to minimize occupational exposure to bloodborne diseases. Based on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that employers vaccinate their at-risk employees against hepatitis B, each school district will be required to supply the vaccine for their at-risk employees.
 More than five million Americans are regularly exposed at work to blood or body fluids that may carry hepatitis B, a potentially deadly virus that is 100 times more contagious than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. It is estimated that more than 5,000 occupationally at-risk workers are infected with hepatitis B annually and five die every week from hepatitis B-related illnesses, despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines to prevent infection.
 The OSHA regulations, which went into effect on July 6, 1992, will help reduce the spread of hepatitis B by requiring employers to provide vaccination for all employees considered to be at risk. School employees at risk may include those who work with students in athletic, recreational or laboratory environments, and who may therefore be exposed frequently to students' cuts, abrasions and other injuries. However, other school employees who may potentially come into contact with students' blood or body fluids also may be at risk for hepatitis B.
 Individual school boards determine which employees should be vaccinated to comply with the OSHA safety regulations. For example, the Chester County School District in Henderson, Tenn. is vaccinating special education, physical education, kindergarten and first grade teachers; aides, custodians, coaches and band directors; and at least one person from each school's office staff. Other boards of education, such as the Clinton Community School District in Clinton, Iowa, consider all employees who come into contact with students to be at risk, and are therefore offering the vaccine to all full-time employees.
 There are approximately 1.25 million chronic carriers of hepatitis B virus in the United States who can infect others, and it is estimated that 300,000 Americans are infected annually. Half of those who acquire the hepatitis B infection are asymptomatic and, because they show no signs of the disease, may pass it on to others unknowingly. The hepatitis B virus can be spread through blood, sex, needles and from mother to child during birth.
 -0- 7/8/93
 /CONTACT: Sharyn Arnold of SmithKline Beecham, 215-751-7074/


CO: SmithKline Beecham ST: Pennsylvania IN: MTC SU:

LG-OS -- NY074 -- 9585 07/08/93 14:48 EDT
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Date:Jul 8, 1993
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