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Children Adopted From Abroad Are Usually Healthy

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WebMD Health News

May 18, 2000 (Boston) -- New parents of children adopted from abroad now have a little more to beam about. Pediatric researchers announced Thursday that children from overseas are extremely healthy, and the health problems they have are typically treatable.

The findings were presented here at the joint meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"This information will give new parents and physicians a little more confidence about the health of the children coming to the U.S.," lead researcher Lisa Saiman, MD, tells WebMD. Saiman is associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University in New York.

In 1999, nearly 16,400 children were adopted from abroad, more than double the number just 10 years earlier.

Saiman and her team reviewed the immunization records of more than 500 children, ages 11 days to 11 years, at an international center in New York during 1997 and 1998. The children came from 16 countries. Nearly half were from China, and one in three was from Russia. The others were from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

In their analysis, the researchers found no children with active tuberculosis, but 14 were carriers of hepatitis B, without active disease. None of the children had HIV, syphilis, or active hepatitis C. Gastrointestinal infections were common, but treatable.

"I was very reassured by the lack of syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis C," Saiman says. "This may speak to the fact that these children are being screened in their country and that the screening is good."

While they had suspicions before, now physicians will have an even better idea of what to look for when children arrive in the U.S. from overseas, according to Jane Aronson, MD, co-author of the study. "Now we clearly know what infectious diseases we need to screen for," she tells WebMD. Aronson is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

Aronson says all children adopted from abroad should be screened for latent TB infection, hepatitis B, and gastrointestinal infections -- a practice currently followed by pediatricians and international health specialists, but one which will be fine-tuned slightly as a result of this study.

Despite finding overseas vaccines "good and effective," Saiman suggests re-immunization for all children from overseas because of their increased risk of infections acquired in their country of origin -- before and after birth.

"Some parents have been anxious in the past about what diseases their adopted children may have," Aronson says. "Now we can give them exact numbers. We can tell parents that these children are not only treated, they are over-treated. It's encouraging to know that these children are being treated aggressively."

As a mother of an internationally adopted child, Saiman says the issue not only reaches the heart of work but the heart of her life.

Vital Information:

  • Parents of children who are adopted from abroad have little to worry about in the way of health, according to new statistics.
  • In a study of 500 children, no one had active tuberculosis infection, HIV, syphilis, or active hepatitis C infection.
  • All children adopted from overseas should be screened for latent tuberculosis, latent hepatitis B, and gastrointestinal infections.

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