Kindergarten students will need hepatitis B vaccination

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/5/00.

Before kindergarten students can start school this fall, they will need a hepatitis B vaccination. The new law ordering this vaccination went into effect this year.

Hepatitis B vaccine is given in a series of three doses over a six month period. After the first shot, the next shot is given a month later. The third vaccination is given five months later.

Vaccinations for kindergarten students are not provided by the school. Beth Realdsen, school nurse, encourages parents of kindergarten students to obtain their vaccinations through the Stearns County Public Health Clinic. Their clinic is held at the St. Louis Catholic Church the first Tuesday of each month. Appointments are not required. Cost of the vaccinations are $6. For more information about the clinic, call 1-800-450-5893.

Hepatitis B vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. Prior to starting school kindergarten students also need vaccinations for DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), polio, and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella).

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), most major health plans will cover the cost of the three-dose hepatitis B series.

Starting with the 2001-2002 school year, seventh graders will be required to have a vaccination before starting school.

In December, the Paynesville Area Middle School offered an optional hepatitis B vaccination clinic to its seventh graders. Seventy-five percent of the Paynesville seventh graders took part in the clinic, according to Realdsen.

The seventh grade students received their first vaccination in December. The second shot was administered a month later. The third vaccination is scheduled to be administered on May 9. All three doses are needed for full and lasting immunity.

"It is hoped the school will again be able to offer the vaccination to the seventh graders," Realdsen said.

"Staff members who have the potential of being exposed to blood (shop, science, and physical education teachers) were immunized five years ago," Realdsen said.

"Hepatitis B is a strong virus," Realdsen explained. "If blood is wiped off a surface, but the surface wasn't disinfected, the germ can still live two to three weeks. It is a tough virus to get rid of," she added.

Hepatitis B facts
According to literature from the Minnesota Department of Health, hepatitis B can cause short-term illness which results in diarrhea and vomiting, jaundice, muscle pain, pain in the joints, and stomach problems. Long-term illness leads to liver damage, liver cancer, and death.

About 1.25 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B virus infection, according to the MDH. Each year it is estimated that 200,000 people, mostly young adults, get infected with hepatitis B virus; more than 11,000 people have to stay in the hospital because of the virus; and 4,000 to 5,000 people die from the chronic illness.

Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. A person can get infected in several ways, such as:
•During birth when the virus passes from an infected mother to the baby
•By having sex with an infected person
•By injecting illegal drugs
•By being stuck with a used needle on the job, or
•By sharing personal items, such as a razor or toothbrush with an infected person.

According to the MDH, about one-third of the hepatitis B cases in the United States have an unknown source.

People should not get hepatitis B vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to baker's yeast (the kind used for making bread) or to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

For more information, call your doctor, clinic, health plan, or the Minnesota Immunization Hotline at 1-800-657-3970.

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