Students entering Nevada schools in the fall will be required to receive vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, both highly contagious and potentially fatal liver diseases.
"It's one of the things we can do to ensure we don't pass these diseases from children to parents and cause an outbreak," said Robert Salcido, the immunization program manager for the Nevada State Health Division.
The requirement, announced by the State Health Division on Monday, will go into effect July 1.
The mandate came after a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 1997 revealed that Nevada was one of 11 Western states to have a high rate of hepatitis A. The national average is 10 cases per 100,000 people and Nevada's rate is double that with more than 21 cases for every 100,000 people, according to the disease control center.
The center has recommended all children be immunized for hepatitis A since 1991 and Nevada implemented statewide hepatitis B vaccination programs for infants and children in 1992.
"This really shouldn't be new," Salcido said. "It's just new to make it a school-entry requirement."
Although Ruth Aberasturi, the director of student support services for Carson City schools, said the district has not seen an abundance of hepatitis cases, she supports the decision.
"That is such a dreadful disease," she said. "And the results of it are so damaging, it's so contagious."
Hepatitis A is spread through person-to-person contact or through contaminated food and water. About 180,000 Americans are infected with the disease each year, with the highest incidence among children from 5 to 14.
Nearly 100 people die each year nationally from the disease and about 22 need hospitalization.
Hepatitis B can cause liver damage and cancer and is spread through blood and other bodily fluids. Each year, more than 5,000 die from the disease and 1.25 million people carry the disease.
The hepatitis A vaccination is one shot followed by a booster six months later. The hepatitis B vaccine is a three-shot series.
The vaccine can cost about $25 per shot or $150 for the series.
The State Health Division will administer them free to those who do not have insurance or who are Native American or Alaskan.
Call the health division at 684-5900.