Pima County Hepatitis A Outbreak Reaches 34 Cases

Pima County is experiencing an outbreak of Hepatitis A cases. According to the Pima County Health Department, Hepatitis A cases have continued to rise within the County, climbing to 20 so far in 2019.

Since November 1, 2018, the date disease investigators believe the outbreak began, there have been 34 cases linked to the outbreak. According to the Pima County Health Department, 27 of those cases have resulted in hospitalization.

The health department is urging all people at risk, especially people experiencing homelessness and those who are using illicit drugs to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A.

From the Pima County Health Department:

Over the course of this outbreak, vaccination teams have been going into facilities to vaccinate as many people in the high-risk groups as possible.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable infectious disease that can damage the liver.

Infected people shed the virus in their stool in high concentrations from two to three weeks before to one week after onset of clinical illness, and thereby spread the virus during this time. They often carry it on poorly washed hands.

It spreads to others when they swallow invisible amounts of the virus through food, drink, sexual activity or after touching contaminated objects. While proper hand washing can prevent spread of infection, vaccination provides long-term protection against the virus.

Although the hepatitis A vaccine is routinely given to children as part of the recommended vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated. Anyone can receive the vaccine but it is especially recommended for:

People who are experiencing homelessness
People who use injection and non-injection illicit drugs
People who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
Men who have sex with men
People who have been recently incarcerated
People who live with, or have sex with, someone who has hepatitis A
People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis B or hepatitis C

Hepatitis A vaccine is readily available at doctor’s offices, health clinics, and pharmacies. People who cannot pay for vaccinations or who do not have health insurance should contact the Health Department or a community health clinic near them.

Places to get vaccinated can be found at www.pima.gov/hep-a

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should:

Wash their hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom and before eating or making food
Avoid having sex with anyone who has hepatitis A
Not share towels, toothbrushes, eating utensils, food, drinks, smokes or drug “works” with others

Hepatitis A symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. People can be contagious for two weeks before, and one week after, symptoms appear, and unknowingly spread the virus.

On rare occasions, the virus can cause liver failure and death – especially in people with impaired immune systems or chronic liver disease.

A blood test is the most common way to confirm hepatitis A, so people who think they have any of these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider or urgent care center.

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