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Hepatitis A cases in Missouri almost twice the national average

November 18, 1999
By: Amanda Campbell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - An advisory committee for the federal Centers for Disease Control recommends Missouri consider requiring hepatitis A vaccinations for school children.

The committee's report says Missouri has nearly twice the national average of cases of hepatitis A from 1987-1997. The routine vaccination of children, the report says, is the best way to reduce the amount of overall hepatitis A cases.

Missouri has 19 cases of Hepatitis A per 100,000 people, according to the report.

The committee recommends required vaccination of children when the number of cases in the state exceededs 20 per 100,000 people and recemmends consideration of universal vaccination if the state exceeds the national average of 10.8 cases.

In 1997, 1,151 cases of Hepatitis A -- four in Boone County -- were reported in Missouri.

According to the report, despite the licensing of the Hepatitis vaccine in 1995, it is one of the most often reported diseases that could be prevented by a vaccine.

Despite the recommendation, the Missouri Health Department does not fund Hepatitis A vacinations even though the number of Missouri cases is almost double the national average for the disease.

Nancy Gonder, spokesperson for the Health Department, said the department generally follows recommendations from the committee's report, but Gonder said she knows of no new plan that has been formulated to bring down the number of Missouri cases.

She stressed that the Centers for Disease Control has not recommended Missouri requrire vaccination of children, just that the state consider it.

Gonder said the state is working to fight the disease through prevention programs.

"The number of Missouri cases was much higher a few years ago, it is something that we are working on," Gonder said.

Gonder said the state issues warnings about washing hands, which is the best way to prevent the disease.

"Children can pass along hepititis A without displaying any symptoms of the disease. Immunizing children would prevent them from spreading the disease," said Nancy Gonder, spokesperson for the state Department of Health.

Gonder said the vaccination gives a long term immunity to the disease, but not a lifetime immunity.