These States Are Experiencing Hepatitis A Outbreaks in 2018

A doctor preparing a vaccine

A doctor preparing a vaccine | scyther5/iStock/Getty Images

You’ve certainly heard of hepatitis A, but you probably never thought it could severely impact your life. This highly-contagious disease affects the liver and can make you ill for months. And while most people who contract the disease will recover without lasting liver damage, others, especially those over 50, may experience liver failure or death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains hepatitis means liver inflammation. When the liver is inflamed, either from heavy alcohol use, medications, toxins, or viruses, it can’t function normally. As for hepatitis A in particular, this disease typically spreads when someone unknowingly ingests it through contaminated food, drinks, or undetectable fecal matter from another infected person.

This disease is more common than you think, too, even with the hepatitis A vaccine available. And the following states have seen serious outbreaks this year that you should be aware of.

Ohio

Cleveland.com reports the Ohio Department of Health has officially declared a statewide outbreak for hepatitis A in June. So far this year, this state has seen 79 cases, which is nearly double the number reported in 2017.

As for the origin of the outbreak, health officials believe it’s linked to the disease spreading in neighboring states. So far, the most cases in the state have occurred in Dayton. The state epidemiologist has warned residents and suggests frequent hand-washing to help combat it.

Tennessee

Nashville, Chattanooga, and the Mid-Cumberland Region are getting hit hard with hepatitis A, says Times-Gazette. Like Ohio, Tennessee is feeling the effects of a multi-state outbreak that’s spread through multiple states since 2017. So far, the state has seen almost 100 cases.

In regards to the outbreak, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said they are “working with health care providers, numerous community partners and sectors across Tennessee to provide education to all and vaccinate those most at risk for the disease”

California

The good news is California has seen a slowdown in reported hepatitis A cases as 2018 progresses. But the bad news is they were hit hard in 2017, which sickened over 600 and killed 19, says CNN. The state continues to monitor the disease, but it seems California has stabilized.

Indiana

Indiana has been battling their hepatitis A outbreak since 2017 — and as of 2018, there have been 214 outbreak-related cases, Fox59 reports. Most of these cases were from Lawrence County, with the state usually seeing just 20 cases in a given 12-month period. There has also been one death in the state.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box says they’re working with health partners to slow the spread, but since the disease is highly contagious, it’s been a tough road. The good news is that Indiana law dictates as of 2014, students entering school must be vaccinated for the disease.

Kentucky

This state is one of the hardest hit by the outbreak so far in 2018. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports over 1,000 people have contracted the disease since August 2017, and eight have died. Boyd County alone has seen 134 reported cases — and that’s just one area of Kentucky.

Now Boyd County and the city of Ashland have passed legislation requiring food workers to get vaccinated. They hope this will dramatically curb the number of cases.

Michigan

Michigan’s hepatitis A outbreak stems all the way back to 2016, USA Today reports. And the publication notes their outbreak is the largest in the U.S., as the disease has killed 27 people so far in their state and sickened 837.

Thirty-five restaurant workers in the Detroit area were found to have the virus, and experts believe that this is a huge reason the illness has spread.  Both Wayne County and Detroit’s health departments recommend all restaurant employees and food handlers in the state get vaccinated.

Utah

Utah’s hepatitis A outbreak began last summer, The Salt Lake Tribune notes, but more recently in 2018, they’ve seen two deaths in the state as a result. The Utah Department of Health confirmed there have been 213 cases of hepatitis A associated with the outbreak, and the homeless population has reportedly been hit the hardest. Health officials in the state believe the outbreak is waning, however.

Arkansas

While many states have experienced their hepatitis A outbreak since 2017 or earlier, the Arkansas Department of Health reports theirs really began early on in 2018 — and it may be slated to get worse. Since February of this year, 60 cases have been reported.

West Virginia

With nearly 100 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in this state, West Virginia health officials are doing all they can to stop the spread of the disease. And 71 of those with the illness have reportedly had such severe symptoms that hospitalization was necessary, Food Safety News reports. Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department Administrator Candance Hurd encourages everyone in the state to get both the hepatitis A and B vaccines.

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