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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ORDERS EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE HEPATITIS B VACCINE TO WORKERS AT RISK

 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ORDERS EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE
 HEPATITIS B VACCINE TO WORKERS AT RISK
 WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, will publish new regulations tomorrow requiring employers to provide hepatitis B vaccination to workers at risk of exposure to the disease.
 The requirement, part of OSHA's new "Standard for Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens," applies to more than 5 million Americans who are regularly exposed to blood or body fluids at work. The hepatitis B virus (HBV), a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus that can be transmitted through blood and other body fluids, infects approximately 12,000 health care workers in the United States annually. Three hundred health care workers die each year from hepatitis B-related illnesses such as liver cancer and cirrhosis.
 "These regulations will help protect people who, in the course of treating or protecting others, are often exposed to HBV-contaminated blood," according to William Schaffner, M.D., member of the American Hospital Association's committee on infection control. "However, providing vaccine is not enough; we must teach those at risk about this dangerous yet preventable disease, and encourage them to get vaccinated at once."
 Of the 5.3 million employees covered by the OSHA regulations, more than 85 percent (4.6 million) are health care workers, including physicians, dentists, nurses, surgical/laboratory technicians, and other hospital/health care institution employees. Other employees covered include public-safety and emergency-response workers (fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical service personnel); corrections officers; embalmers and morticians; and workers at blood banks, tissue banks and plasma collection centers.
 About 1,000 of the 12,000 health care workers infected with hepatitis B every year become HBV carriers and can transmit the disease to others, including family members and sex partners. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that HBV infection from occupational exposure to blood causes up to 3,000 annual cases of clinical acute hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. The debilitating effects of acute hepatitis may cause those infected to miss work for months.
 "Safe and effective vaccines have been available to prevent hepatitis B for nearly a decade; CDC and OSHA have both recommended vaccination for occupationally at-risk workers since 1984," according to David Krause, M.D., Director of Medical Affairs at SmithKline Beecham. "Still, less than 50 percent of health care workers, and far fewer police officers and fire fighters, have been immunized."
 One physician for whom vaccination is a very personal issue is Sheryl Menacker, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who recently recovered from hepatitis B. "I am amazed that so few of my colleagues have been vaccinated, and that they do not consider hepatitis B as a personal risk," said Menacker. "I missed several months of work and was hospitalized; I could have died.
 "But the most regrettable fact is that my illness was preventable. I hope the OSHA recommendations will convince all people whose jobs put them at risk to get vaccinated against hepatitis B."
 -0- 12/5/91
 /CONTACT: Sharyn Arnold of SmithKline Beecham, 215-751-7074, or Michael Seggev, 212-887-8096, or Jill Tannenbaum, 212-887-8038, both of Creamer Dickson Basford, for SmithKline/ CO: SmithKline Beecham ST: Pennsylvania IN: MTC SU:


CK-OS -- NY025 -- 9615 12/05/91 11:02 EST
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Date:Dec 5, 1991
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