Teens and Young Adults Warned About Dangerous Virus
April 21, 2003
Contra Costa residents who go to the movies for the next few months will get a bonus with their theater tickets: tips about a how to prevent a deadly disease.
Three movie theaters will begin showing slides before movies to let young Californians ages 15 to 24 know how important it is for them to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, a viral infection that kills 5,000 people a year. The campaign is a joint effort between the California Department of Health Services Immunization Branch and Immunization Coalitions in 13 California counties, including Contra Costa. The local participating movie theaters are Century 16 Hilltop in Richmond, Century 16 Downtown Pleasant Hill and Crow Canyon Cinema 6 in San Ramon. The slides will be shown through June.
"There is no treatment for Hepatitis B and once someone is infected, it is a nasty disease. We want to be sure that young people know about it and protect themselves against it," says Dale Jenssen, Contra Costa's Immunization Coalition Coordinator.
The virus is sexually transmitted and also can be transmitted through sharing anything with blood on it - needles or tattoo equipment, razors or even toothbrushes. It affects the liver and can result in scarring and cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure. A portion of those who are infected are infected for life and become lifelong carriers. Women who become carriers and who get pregnant can pass the disease on to their babies.
According to Dottie Langthorn, Immunization Coordinator for Contra Costa Public Health, beginning four years ago, California began requiring that young people began being vaccinated against Hepatitis B in 7th grade. Older teens and young adults missed the requirement and are at risk because they are beginning their sexually active years.
"Each year about 80,000 people, mostly young adults, are infected with hepatitis B virus. One third of them don't know how they got it and many don't know they've been infected unless they are tested," says Langthorn.
The disease can make people very ill, causing nausea, tiredness, loss of appetite, stomach pain and cramps, muscle aches, fever and jaundice.
"The bottom line is that if you are between 15 and 24 years old and you haven't been vaccinated, go do it," says Langthorn. (For more about immunization locations visit ccpublichealth.org or call 800-246-2494).
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