New state vaccine rules could impact students

Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 9:43 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Parents, add one more thing to the to-do list for children. This one is going to hurt.

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Many people in WAVE Country have already received the letter that your child will need additional vaccines before the 2018-2019 school year starts in Kentucky. Do not blow it off, because time makes all the difference on this one.

Starting July 1, all students must have two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine. Although that may seem like plenty of time, parents should start scheduling appointments with pediatricians now.

The state of Kentucky is requiring all students in Kindergarten through grade 12 to provide proof that they've received two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine.

"It's been law in other states of the United States and Kentucky is coming around to it right now," Dr. Becky Carothers, pediatrician with Norton Children's Medical Associates - Broadway, said.

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Hepatitis A is a food borne illness and is contagious. Hep A usually spreads when a person eats or drinks something contaminated with fecal matter.

"The virus can get into the food and someone eats the food that has the virus and they get sick," Dr. Carothers said. "It causes inflammation of the liver, jaundice, and vomiting and illness. It is something that goes away on its own. It's not necessarily treatable."

Hepatitis A signs and symptoms typically don't appear until you've had the virus for a few weeks. But not everyone with Hepatitis A develops them. Hepatitis signs and symptoms can include:

- Fatigue

- Sudden nausea and vomiting

- Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)

- Clay-colored bowel movements

- Loss of appetite

- Low-grade fever

- Dark urine

- Joint pain

- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

- Intense itching

These symptoms may be relatively mild and go away in a few weeks. Sometimes, however, Hepatitis A infection results in a severe illness that lasts several months.

There is currently a Hepatitis A outbreak in Jefferson County. According to the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, there are 37 cases of Hepatitis A this year, most of them since August.

With the Hepatitis A vaccine, there are two doses. The vaccine has to be given at least six months apart. The absolute latest a parent should wait for the first vaccine is February, but the sooner the better.

That's why WAVE Country parent, Liz Adelberg, said she plans to take her son Cameron, 13, to the doctor on the first day of winter break. Cameron is a student at Meyzeek.

"That puts you right up against the start of school so let's get it done," Adelberg said. "He's not going to like it but he'll be okay."

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The good news is that your child might already be vaccinated. Hepatitis A shots are recommended for babies at 12 and 18 months.

"It's mostly for older parents," Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson Allison Martin said. "For example, I have a 13-year-old that is a student at JCPS. I also have a second grader at JCPS. She has had the hepatitis vaccine because it's been part of the protocol for several years. My son has not."

That's why it's important that parents check with the child's pediatrician. If the child has already gotten the vaccination, all parents need to do is get an updated shot record.

The second new state requirement is only for students age 16 and older. They must have received two doses of meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

"Ideally, kids should receive the first meningococcal vaccine at age 11 or 12, and then the second at 16," Dr. Carothers said. "However, these two doses can be administered eight weeks apart. If your teen hasn't had any of the vaccines, there's still time, but I wouldn't wait to schedule an appointment."

Local school officials suggest all parents take the following steps to make sure their children are covered:

1. Confirm with your child's health care provider that these vaccines have been given to your child, or make an appointment for your child to receive the vaccines.

2. Ask your child's health care provider for an updated copy of your child's Kentucky Certificate of Immunization Status.

3. Give a copy of the immunization certificate to your child's school.

Families with questions may contact JCPS Health Services at 502-485-3387.

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