PA Health Department Provides Hepatitis B Vaccinations

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin B. Johnson discussed the importance of Hepatitis disease awareness and vaccination during an immunization clinic at a shelter in Harrisburg.

"Homeless individuals are considered at high risk for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A because they usually do not have health care insurance or ready access to medical care," said Dr. Johnson. "While we must reach out to vulnerable communities and target our education and testing efforts, it is important to remember that anyone can be at risk and should be aware of this disease."

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The Department of Health will offer Hepatitis B immunization clinics at shelters throughout the state during the month of May as part of Hepatitis Awareness Month.

The CDC estimates that there are 200,000 new cases of Hepatitis B in the U.S. per year. According to Department of Health statistics, 192 newly infected (acute) Hepatitis B infections were reported in 2007. Most of these infections were among high risk adults with characteristics including men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, immigrants and adults attending HIV and STD clinics.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can cause scarring of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death. Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and body fluids, so that one can contract it by sharing items that may have blood on them (i.e. needles, razors), having sexual contact with someone who is infected, or passing from mother to child during birth. An individual can be infected with the Hepatitis B virus and not be aware of the infection for many years.

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