Thanks to a vaccine that’s widely-accessible, hepatitis A has been a preventable disease for years. And yet, cases of hep A have been soaring across the United States in recent years.
As 2020 begins, New York alone has seen an 800% increase in hepatitis A cases. On top of New York, states like Louisiana, Colorado and much of the Midwest are experiencing outbreaks of hepatitis A.
After years of efforts, why can’t we stop these outbreaks? And what steps can help you stay free of hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a virus that is spread through contaminated food and water. Infected stool that’s undetected gets into food and drinks, then into the body. The virus affects the liver and causes symptoms that can include: fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, and jaundice. In severe cases, complications from these symptoms can lead to death.
Louisiana and Colorado have both reported two deaths in their latest outbreak.
The latest outbreak in the Midwest has reached these states: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin. This comes 18 months after Kentucky had the worst outbreak hepatitis A in U.S. history.
Officials believe the outbreak started with contaminated blackberries. Because of this, the FDA encourages people not to buy non-organic blackberries at Fresh Thyme or Woodman’s.
There are 18 reported cases of hepatitis A in the Midwest.
The hepatitis A outbreak has turned deadly in Louisiana with two deaths already reported. Louisiana alone reported 674 cases of hepatitis A for 2019, resulting in approximately 300 hospitalizations.
The outbreak is already considered the state’s largest in 20 years.
Colorado has also reported two deaths from their latest outbreak. Hepatitis A cases began to rise throughout Colorado in 2017, with the outbreak officially starting in 2018. Across 16 counties, the state confirmed over 300 hepatitis A cases and 224 hospitalizations from the disease.
The state is taking some steps to fight the outbreak, including a vaccination campaign reaching areas throughout Colorado.
How to Protect Yourself
If you are afraid that you’re not vaccinated or at-risk of being affected by hepatitis A, there are preventative measures that you can take.
The individuals most at-risk of getting hepatitis A, according to health officials, are: the homeless population, people who use drugs, homosexual men and prisoners. These populations are more at risk due to their lack of access to healthcare and crowded living situations.
The CDC recommends that you receive the hepatitis A vaccine to prevent infection. They especially recommend all children between the ages of 2-18 should receive the vaccine.
The vaccine is administered in just two doses and lasts for 11 years. It is 94% effective in protecting individuals from the disease.
There are other daily practices you can adopt to better protect yourself:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom
- Avoid using unclean water
- Use protection during intercourse
Do you still need to receive the hepatitis A vaccine? Passport Health can help. The vaccine is available at all Passport Health clinics, with locations available throughout North America. Give us a call at , or book an appointment online and speak to a travel health nurse.
Written for Passport Health by Kaitlyn Luckow. Kaitlyn is a freelance writer, photographer and English teacher in Milwaukee. She has a passion for capturing and writing other people’s stories. You can find her at sayhellostory.com.