State offers hep B shots for high-risk adults

Posted: Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Juneau Public Health Center expects it will soon offer free hepatitis B shots to high-risk adults.

Kate Slotnick, nurse manager at the center, said her staff plans to offer the vaccines to Lemon Creek Correctional Center prisoners this month.

Those at high risk include people who have had sexually transmitted diseases, people with multiple sex partners, men who have sex with men, people with HIV and those who inject street drugs. It also includes people traveling to Third World countries, people who live in correctional or long-term care centers, people on dialysis and health-care or public safety workers such as first responders.

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by a virus that is usually transmitted through body fluids. It can be a short-term illness, or it can be chronic, lasting many decades. Many people have no symptoms but can still spread the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It's best prevented with a vaccine, the CDC says.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services program has federal grant money to cover the cost of the three-shot series at state public health centers. The vaccine is expected to be available into 2010.

The state is providing the vaccines free, but health centers may charge administrative fees for them. Fees are charged on a sliding scale for those with low incomes.

Those interested can contact the Juneau Public Health Center, located at 3412 Glacier Highway, at 465-3353.

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