New member of the family?  You may need a new vaccine
September 26th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

New member of the family? You may need a new vaccine

There is nothing quite as momentous as bringing a new baby home.  There are smiles, kisses and sometimes tears, especially for families who have waited a long time for the moment to arrive.  For parents who adopt children from abroad, arriving home is often extra special.  The investment of time,  money and travel has resulted in a homecoming for a special little person who is finally sleeping safely in Mom and Dad's arms.

In the past, experts have told parents who travel internationally to adopt children to get vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus.  Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is supporting a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  recommendation that other people who may have close contact with the children in the months after they arrive in the United States also get vaccinated.

According to the U.S. State Department, more than 11,000 children were adopted from other countries in 2010.  Most of these children came from China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine.  Almost 100%  of children adopted abroad between 1998 and 2008 came from countries with high rates of the hepatitis A virus according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  85 percent of those infections were in children under 5.

Why the concern?  Hepatitis A is highly contagious.  The symptoms include abdominal pain near the liver, dark urine and jaundice .  But often people with it don't have symptoms, so it's hard to tell they are carrying the virus.   As a result, it can easily spread it to others.  In more serious cases, hepatitis A can cause an acute liver infection and in extreme cases, liver failure.

The recommendations come after a report in 2007 of a grandmother of a child from Ethiopia coming down with hepatitis A.  A subsequent investigation found 20 additional cases of acute hepatitis A in people who had not traveled abroad but had close personal contact with children who had recently been adopted outside the United States.

So how do you know if you should get vaccinated?  The AAP says you should get the vaccine if you anticipate having close contact with international adoptees during the two months after their arrival.  It also recommends getting the first shot more than two weeks before the adopted child arrives and getting the second dose at least six months after the first one.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Larry5

    How about a vaccine for illegals crossing the Mexican border. They bring a lot of disease with them, things that were eliminated years ago in civilized countries. And some of these diseases are now multiple drug resistant. That's fancy wording for instead of getting sick for a while you might just die.

    September 26, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lisa

      I think that would be a very selfless act of kindness, Larry. Well-done!

      September 26, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
  2. c

    Hep A is not that dangerous, no need to run out and get a vaccine.

    September 26, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.