Vaccine Group Warns of Hepatitis From Children Adopted Overseas

ATLANTA — A U.S. immunization advisory group is recommending new vaccinations for people in close contact with children adopted from some other countries after a 51-year-old adoptive grandmother's hospitalization from hepatitis.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, meeting in Atlanta, voted Wednesday to recommend hepatitis A vaccinations for all close contacts of children coming from countries where hepatitis A is relatively common. That includes Guatemala, China, Russia and Ethiopia — four countries that are currently the major sources of international adoptions. The committee makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal officials estimate that international adoptees trigger only 100 to 1,000 of the estimated 32,000 hepatitis A infections that occur in the United States each year. But cases that do occur are sometimes tragic.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus, which can spread through handling a diaper or other contact with contaminated feces. Federal guidelines call for vaccinations against it for all U.S. children and for adults who travel to countries where the illness is common.

Children adopted from other countries generally do not have recommended vaccinations when they arrive. They undergo physical examinations, but infected young children often don't have the jaundice considered a sign of the illness, CDC officials said.