Washington Update

Health Professions Schools Warned Against Hepatitis B Discrimination

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The Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services sent a joint letter to all U.S. medical schools, dental schools, nursing schools, and other health-related schools, expressing concern that some may be making enrollment decisions based on an incorrect understanding of the hepatitis B virus, resulting in discrimination.

The letter cites a March 2013 settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and two medical schools. The letter updates schools on the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the participation of students with hepatitis B in health-related schools. The CDC also notes that since the last update of the recommendations in 1991, there have been no reports of hepatitis B transmission, in the United States or other developed countries, from medical or dental students to patients.

Lastly, the letter emphasizes the importance of CDC’s recommendations, especially as they relate to the schools’ obligation to comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, and national origin. The Justice Department resolved allegations that the schools violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by excluding previously accepted applicants with hepatitis B from their programs.

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