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Athletes Warned Of Hepatitis B

A warning for parents of student athletes: The American Academy of Pediatrics is worried about exposure to athletes' blood and is recommending all students and coaches receive the hepatitis B vaccine, reports Early Show Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

What should parents know if their kids play these contact sports?

The risk is small but real. There have been at least two cases of this transmission of hepatitis B between athletes, one student infecting another, so the Academy thinks it is very prudent for athletes to get the vaccine.

With two cases, does that warrant a widespread warning?

When you get this virus, it can be serious. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver to cancer of the liver. Although it's rare and people shouldn't become overly concerned, it's more than theoretical.

There are three kinds of hepatitis: A, B, and C. All cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is transmitted orally. You get that illness, it passes, and you're free for the rest of your life.

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But with B and C, it's different. This is transmitted through blood. It can cause inflammation and cirrhosis of the liver. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of the need for liver transplantation.

What can students and coaches do?

If an athlete is bleeding during a game, remove this player from the game.

Second, clean the playing area and the equipment with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. A lot of people don't do that.

Encourage athletes not to share personal items like razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes. This is also a way it can be transmitted.

What happens if it goes untreated?

About 10 percent of people will go on to have very serious problems with hepatitis B. It can suppress viral reply indication, and you need to prevent it with the vaccine.

Is there any risk associated with the vaccine?

It causes no serious complications and very few side effects. It involves three doses over a course of several months. It's easy to get the vaccine and prevent something very serious.

Is a blood test the only way to find out?

Yes, that's how doctors diagnose it.

Is this a first for a warning like this?

It's not. A few years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics made similar warnings for the AIDS virus, which is transmitted the same way. Hepatitis is more serious than the AIDS virus. We're not saying they should be taken out of the game, but everybody should take precautions.

For more information on how to detect hepatitis B, click here.

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