Since the fall of 1994 Ontario has funded a Hepatitis B vaccination program. Thanks to the cooperation of parents, teachers, and Grade 7 students, the Northwestern Health Unit has successfully immunized approximately 80 percent of the Grade 7 population in the Kenora-Rainy River District each year.
Hepatitis B is one of several viral infections that can affect the liver. Hepatitis B is spread by contact with body fluids—blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva, and can be passed to newborns from infected mothers.
At least half of those infected have no symptoms, but all of those who are infected can pass the virus on to other people. Infected people who do have symptoms may experience nausea, fever, fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, enlarged liver and jaundice.
The Hepatitis B virus can damage the liver permanently. It is estimated that this virus causes about 80 percent of all liver cancers.
There is no cure for hepatitis, but the Hepatitis B vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing infection. It is a safe vaccine and has been used in Canada for more than 20 years.
The 2009-2010 Hepatitis B immunization campaign will again target Grade 7 students. Public health nurses will give students two injections over a six-month period beginning in the fall of 2009.
The two dose schedule, using the product Recombivax HB® licensed for adolescents 11 to 15 years of age, is used for the program. Using this product, students will only require two injections as opposed to three injections that were given in previous years.
Parents, students, and the general public who have questions may contact the local Northwestern Health Unit office or visit www.nwhu.on.ca.