News Release
  
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   August 8, 2001

Christine Grant
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160

 

Department of Health and Senior Services Reminds Parents
To Get Their Children Immunized for Hepatitis B


TRENTON - It's almost back-to-school time and the Department of Health and Senior Services is reminding parents that all children are now required to receive a hepatitis B vaccine before entering kindergarten or first-grade, and sixth-grade, according to regulations that go into effect this September.

Last August, the state Public Health Council and the department approved regulations that require all New Jersey school children to receive a hepatitis B vaccine before entering kindergarten or first grade and provided a sixth-grade "catch-up requirement." New Jersey joins the ranks of 43 other states that have passed laws or implemented regulations mandating the hepatitis B vaccine for school children.

"Hepatitis B vaccine has been used for 15 years and has been found 95 percent effective in individuals who receive immunizations," said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner. "Currently, about 90 percent of all New Jersey children receive the vaccine by the time they enter school. This regulation will help address the remaining 10 percent, who for a variety of reasons, are not vaccinated. I urge every parent who hasn't done so, to arrange for a hepatitis B vaccination for their child."

Depending on the age of the child and type of vaccine given, hepatitis B vaccine is given as a 2 or 3 dose series over a period of 4 to 6 months.

"All school systems and local physicians were notified of the new regulations last November and have been working hard through active outreach efforts in preparing for the upcoming school year," said Dr. Bresnitz. "Because of their efforts, we are confident that the implementation of the new hepatitis B regulations will be done swiftly and efficiently."

Dr. Bresnitz also recommends that parents who have children entering school should check their children's immunization records or call their pediatrician to confirm they have received at least one dose of hepatitis B vaccine before entering school this September.

The New Jersey Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical and public health professional groups have supported and endorsed routine hepatitis B immunizations for all infants.

Although hepatitis B is frequently without symptoms in children, it can cause chronic liver disease and liver cancer. The hepatitis B virus is found in the blood and body fluids of an infected person. Blood is the most significant transmission source. The virus is passed from person-to-person through direct blood-to-blood contact via mucous membranes or broken skin. Hepatitis B is not spread by casual contact or by contaminated food or water.

There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B and most individuals recover fully within a few weeks. However, about 10 percent of individuals become chronic carriers of the virus and it remains in their blood throughout their lives.

In addition to hepatitis B, department regulations also require that children be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella before entering kindergarten or first grade.

For more information on hepatitis B and other required vaccines, visit the department's web site at www.state.nj.us/health.

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