October 28, 2005

Give Hep A vaccine to all kids: agency

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An advisory committee of the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now
recommending that hepatitis A vaccination be included in the
routine vaccination schedule of U.S. children.

Hepatitis A -- a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A
virus -- can affect anyone. In the U.S., hepatitis A can occur
in situations ranging from isolated cases of disease to
widespread outbreaks. Good personal hygiene and proper
sanitation can help prevent hepatitis A. Vaccines are also
available for long-term prevention of hepatitis A virus

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
unanimously agreed on universal hepatitis A vaccination for
children between 12 to 35 months of age, with catch-up
vaccination through the pre-school years.

The ACIP's last guidelines, released in 1999, called for
vaccination of children living in states with the highest
hepatitis A rates. The group decided to expand the
recommendations to all children when it became apparent that
most cases were now occurring in states in which hepatitis A
vaccination had not been recommended.

"Routine vaccination of children is the most effective way
to reduce the incidence of hepatitis A, " Dr. Steve Cochi,
acting director of the CDC's National Immunization Program,
said in a statement. "This recommendation is an important step
toward the total elimination of the transmission of hepatitis A
virus in the US."

Hepatitis A vaccination continues to be recommended for
travelers to countries with high rates of hepatitis A, men who
have sex with men, illegal drug users, and patients with
chronic liver disease.