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Vaccine Program Halts Hepatitis B Transmission.

A comprehensive hepatitis B immunization program eliminated transmission of the disease in a remote area of Alaska that had high rates of hepatitis. This demonstrates that a vaccination program is achievable, even in underserved areas, according to investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several Alaskan public health organizations.

The program, which began in 1983, includes screening of pregnant women for the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen, routine three-dose anti-HBV vaccination of all children as part of the standard immunization schedule, and catch-up vaccination of other susceptible people (J. Infect. Dis. 181[2]:413-18, 2000).

Rates of hepatitis B and sequelae such as hepatocellular carcinoma in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska ranged from 2% to 56% prior to the immunization program, but only two cases of hepatitis B have been reported among children born since the program began. Both cases resolved; the investigators estimated that approximately 756 infections have been prevented by the program.

Widespread use of HBV vaccination in endemic areas such as Alaska also would reduce the pool of infected children and minimize the likelihood of horizontal disease transmission, the investigators said.

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Author:Walsh, Nancy
Publication:Family Practice News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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