Kentucky has decreased its hepatitis B rate by more than 80 percent since 1993 by using the hepatitis vaccine. Now, hepatitis B high-risk residents are eligible for low-cost vaccination at the Northern Kentucky Health Department. The vaccination consists of three doses given throughout a 6-month time period, with a sliding-scale fee based on the patient’s family size and income. Kentucky does not refuse treatment because of inability to pay.
A major factor in Kentucky’s hepatitis B rate decrease has been the earmarking of high-risk groups of adults age 19 and older for vaccination. These groups consist of men who have sex with men; men and women who are sexually active with multiple partners; individuals diagnosed with type I or type II diabetes, HIV, hepatitis C, or an STD; individuals seeking substance abuse treatment; and sexual or household contacts of a person infected with hepatitis B. Health center staff can provide further screening to those interested in vaccinations during the appointment scheduling process.
Another development contributing to Kentucky’s hepatitis B decrease is that most children routinely receive immunization against the virus, with the first dose given at birth. Also, Medicaid-eligible high-risk adults can obtain the vaccine from the health department. The health department informs those diagnosed with hepatitis B if they have an acute strain of the virus or chronic illness. Individuals with chronic hepatitis B can go 20–30 years without ever showing symptoms. Approximately 15–20 percent of chronic hepatitis B-infected people develop serious health problems, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The health department tracks an average of 23 acute cases of hepatitis B each year. In 2012, Grant, Kenton, Boone, and Campbell counties reported 26 cases. Kentucky recorded 136 cases of hepatitis B in 2010. When adjusted for population, Kentucky’s 2010 hepatitis B rate was one of the three highest in the United States, trailing West Virginia and tying with Oklahoma.
Kentucky residents can make a vaccine appointment at four county health centers: Campbell County Health Center, 1098 Monmouth Street in Newport, (859) 431–1704; Boone County Health Center, 7505 Burlington Pike in Florence, (859) 363–2060; Kenton County Health Center, 2002 Madison Avenue in Covington, (859) 431–3345; or Grant County Health Center, 234 Barnes Road in Williamstown, (859) 824–5074. For more information on hepatitis B, please visit http://www.nkyhealth.org/mx/hm.asp?id=hepbfact.