Utah is one of several states that have reported a hepatitis A outbreak recently. Since January 1, 2017, Utah public health has identified 233 confirmed cases of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection; many among persons who are homeless and/or using illicit drugs (2017-149 cases, 2018-64 cases to date).
On Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced that two county residents have died due to Utah’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak.
The first death occurred in January but due to other health conditions affecting the individual, officials were waiting on confirmatory tests to declare an official cause of death. The second death occurred in late March.
Both deceased individuals were adults who belonged to one or more population groups previously identified by health officials as high-risk for contracting hepatitis A in this outbreak.
“These deaths are a tragic reminder that hepatitis A is a serious disease—but one that is preventable,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for SLCoHD. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection, and the vaccine is widely available from health care providers, pharmacies, and Salt Lake County immunization clinics.”
Hepatitis A vaccine is given via two shots at least six months apart. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the first dose provides 94% protection against hepatitis A for 2–5 years and the second dose provides 99% protection for 20–25 years.
Through April 2, Salt Lake County has identified 148 cases of hepatitis A related to this outbreak. Epidemiologists have linked the Utah outbreak to a national outbreak first reported in San Diego, California.