Latino Children Six Times as Likely to Contract Hepatitis A as Whites, UCLA Study Finds
Latino children in California are nearly six times more likely to contract hepatitis A than non-Hispanic white children, according to a new University of California-Los Angeles study, the Ventura Country Star reports. Conducted by the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, the study examined health department data collected in five counties -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego -- between 1996 to 2000. Researchers found an average hepatitis A infection rate of 36 cases for every 100,000 Latino children, 80% higher than the level at which the CDC recommends vaccinations (Moraga, Ventura County Star, 4/17). Comparatively, the rate was about seven cases per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites and even lower for black and Asian children (Keith, AP/Ventura County Star, 4/17). Riverside County had the highest rate with 51 cases per 100,000 Latino children, followed by Orange County with a rate of 38 per 100,000 children, San Diego County with 37, San Bernardino County with 36 and Los Angeles County with 34 (Ventura County Star, 4/17). Researchers did not examine potential causes for the disparity in infection rates, but David Hayes-Bautista, director of the center and the study's lead author, suggested that Latino children may be more likely to contract hepatitis A because they tend to be poor, live in overcrowded conditions and lack adequate access to health insurance and medical care (Liddane, Orange County Register, 4/17). The study found that treating Latino children with hepatitis A during the five-year period resulted in more than $10 million in medical costs and more than 110,000 lost school days (Hayes-Bautista et al., "The Hepatitis A Burden in California's Latino Children," April 2002).
Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would require immunizations for children in the five counties that were part of the study. The bill would allow parents concerned about the vaccine to opt out (Orange County Register, 4/17). Although the CDC offers the hepatitis A vaccine for free, the state would cover administrative costs (Ventura County Star, 4/17). Federal guidelines recommend vaccinations for children in areas where the hepatitis A infection rate for the general population is 20 per 100,000 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/17). Last year, a bill that would have mandated vaccinations statewide died after concerns were raised about a possible link between the vaccine and a "perceived increase in autism" (AP/Ventura County Star, 4/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.