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Study Shows New Vaccine Halts Hepatitis A Epidemic in Alaska

ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 6, 1994 -- One dose of a developmental inactivated hepatitis A vaccine administered to residents in 24 remote Alaskan communities appears to have halted a hepatitis A epidemic a new study shows. The findings were presented today at the 34th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).

"Every eight to ten years, rural Alaska experiences cyclical epidemics of hepatitis A virus infection," said Brian J. McMahon, MD, Alaska Native Medical Center, Indian Health Service. "Since we have been unsuccessful in controlling these epidemics with immune globulin in the past, when 24 remote Alaskan communities all began to experience outbreaks, we decided to try the new vaccine. Prior to vaccination, 554 cases of acute hepatitis A infection had been reported."

In an uncontrolled, demonstration trial, 4,259 people--3,159 children and 1,100 adults--received one dose of hepatitis A vaccine. Acute hepatitis A occurred in 46 vaccinees, 38 cases within 20 days of vaccination, and in 191 unvaccinated persons.

"We constructed epidemic curves for each village and then combined them showing that for the entire area there was a dramatic drop within eight weeks following vaccination," McMahon said. "In villages where 80 percent or more of the estimated susceptibles were vaccinated, the epidemic was terminated in six to eight weeks. In one community of 4,030 people, where only 49 percent of the estimated susceptibles were vaccinated, the epidemic continued for over six months."

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Posted: July 2004