Kansas schools will require two new vaccines come August, including one against a virus that’s hospitalized 13,000 people and killed 200 across the country since 2016.

The new rules, which apply to public and private schools, will be phased in during the next several years. But come August, schools will check that:

• Kindergartners and first-graders have received a hepatitis A vaccine.

• Seventh-graders have had their first dose of a MenACWY, a vaccine against four types of meningococcal bacteria.

• 11th-graders get a dose of MenACWY, too. Even students who received a first dose when they were younger will need a booster dose.

Kansas allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons, but not philosophical reasons.

Nationally, 25 states have seen more than 20,000 cases of hepatitis A in widespread outbreaks since 2016. 

The liver infection often spreads through contamination in water, raw or undercooked foods or through sex.

Kansas hasn’t seen any recent cases, though its neighbors have. More than 300 in Missouri and nearly 100 in Colorado have become sick.

Most people shake off hepatitis A in a matter of weeks, the federal Centers for Disease Control say. But others fight the illness for months, suffering from things like diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, fever, jaundice and stomach pain.

Last month, the federal panel of health experts that sets vaccine guidelines recommended children and teens who missed the hepatitis A shots as toddlers get them now. In Kansas, federal data suggest more than 85 percent of children receive it as toddlers, in part because it was already required for daycare.

Fewer Kansans get the MenACWY vaccine. Meningococcal bacteria cause, among other things, meningitis.

Outbreaks are rare, but nearly a third of patients die, lose limbs or sustain long-term brain damage.

People living in close quarters, such as college dorms, are at higher risk of contracting meningococcal disease.

Between 2012 and 2017 in Kansas, 23 people were stricken with meningococcal disease, 21 were hospitalized and six died, according to KDHE.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service.

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