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Hep A vaccinations required for school children

A new state law that went into effect July 1 requires every child in Kentucky who attends day care facilities, preschool programs and public or private primary and secondary schools to have received a Hepatitis A vaccination. Also, home-schooled students who participate in school activities are required to have the vaccination.

Brent Blevins, director of the Boyle County Health Department, said up until now, children were not required to have the two-dose vaccination as part of their normal childhood immunizations before entering school, but it was recommended. Now, it’s mandatory.

“I agree with it,” Blevins said of the law. “It’s good to have.”

Blevins said Hepatitis A is a viral disease that inflames the liver. It’s usually transmitted when someone with the disease has poor hygiene and fails wash their hands after using the bathroom, then touches other people while playing or even shaking hands.

Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. Vaccinations easily prevent the illness.

“This is one of those easy things. .. It’s sort of like flu shots,” he said.

Blevins said all students must have received at least the first dose against Hepatitis A before entering school this year. The second dose must be administered a minimum of six months later, he said.

Ron Ballard, director of support services with the Danville Schools, said schools began notifying parents and caregivers about the new required immunization when the legislation passed last year. So, by the time students begin school on Aug. 15, they should have all of the necessary immunizations and documentation.

He said school policy says students from kindergarten through 12th grade have two weeks after school begins to have this information on file.

Kentucky has seen an outbreak of Hepatitis A recently, Blevins said, so adults should also take the vaccination as a precaution.

“There’s no reason not to,” he said.

According to the Department of Public Health, 1,094 cases of Hepatitis A were confirmed as of July 7, with 628 hospitalized and eight deaths in Kentucky.

Blevins said a normal, healthy person usually gets over Hepatitis A on their own. However, those with weak immune systems, the elderly and infants are more susceptible and can end up in the hospital or even die from the disease.

“It can happen to anybody,” Blevins said.

Blevins said most primary care physicians, walk-in clinics and even some pharmacies can administer the vaccinations. Insurance usually covers most of the cost of the dose.

For those who go to the local health department and don’t have insurance, Blevins said the cost is $70 a dose.

The Boyle County Health Department has three confirmed cases of Hepatitis A that it is tracking. Blevins said some people may contract the disease and just think they caught some kind of a bug along the way. If they just get over it, those cases aren’t reported.

Blevins encouraged everyone to get the vaccine.

“We still have three cases,” Blevins said. “Let’s not turn it into 30 cases.”