The United States is experiencing a Hepatitis outbreak in many areas of the country. This virus can be spread by the consumption of food and/or water that is contaminated with fecal matter or through person-to-person contact.
There are treatments for the virus and in some cases, it will clear on its own. However, in many cases, Hepatitis A can cause significant illness that will linger for few weeks or even months. The best prevention for this virus is a vaccination that is both effective and safe. So, why is there a recent outbreak of Hepatitis? Are people not getting vaccinated or has the strain changed?
States That Are Impacted With Hepatitis Outbreaks:
The first outbreak was in November of 2016 and as of July 2017, 251 cases and 5 deaths have been reported in the San Diego area. Reports show that the majority of people infected are those within the homeless community. This makes treatment very difficult as health providers have challenges in providing this population the vaccination. This also presents a unique challenge as many homeless people lack access to facilities to achieve proper personal hygiene.
Community organizations and officials are trying to get the word out about Hepatitis and vaccination kits are being distributed. These kits are called “Hepatitis A Prevention Kit” and contain sanitary supplies. They are also installing hand-washing stations in areas that are heavily populated by homeless people. Since the initial outbreak, over 4,000 Hepatitis A vaccinations are being planned. San Diego is hoping to end the outbreak in the near future.
The state has experienced 43 cases of Hepatitis A from January to early July of 2017. Reports have shown this is a significant increase since 2016 which experienced 23 cases. Approximately half of these cases ended up with people being hospitalized and one person died. State officials have not found any connection between Hepatitis A and contaminated food or restaurants. Reports have also shown that approximately 74% of Hepatitis A cases have been men and half of those have been men having sex with men. Public health organizations are attempting to combat the epidemic by focusing on MSM (men having sex with men) with outreach programs and offering vaccinations at various locations.
In Southeast Michigan, approximately 200 people have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A between August 2016 and June 2017. Reports state that 90% of those infected with the virus have been hospitalized and 10 have died. Public health officials do not believe the outbreak is related to food or water contamination but person-to-person contact due to illicit drugs, unprotected sex, and other related activities. Almost 50% of people infected reported a history of substance abuse and 20% have been co-infected with Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A :
As many people might not know, Hepatitis A is easily prevented by getting a vaccination. It is highly recommended that children one year of age and older should be vaccinated. Especially susceptible are those traveling outside their country, where risks are even higher. Vaccinations are also highly recommended for those at a higher risk of contracting the infection which include:
• Any individual who suffers from chronic liver diseases
• Illegal drug users (regardless of needle use)
•Caregivers and families bringing an international child into their homes and organizations.
• People who have been treated for clotting issues.
• Those who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research lab.
The Bad News:
Reports show that less than 10% of adults over the age of 19 have been vaccinated for Hepatitis A. Due to these low numbers, the risks of continued outbreaks are inevitable. There is a great need for people to understand the importance of the vaccination. Continued efforts by public health workers and other providers are taking place to reach out to those who are at a high risk of developing this infection.
If you think you are experiencing symptions related to Hepatitis A you need to go see a doctor immediately. Our urgent care is ready to help if you need medical treatment. We are ocnvienelty located in La Jolla Village.