Joining several other states that have declared hepatitis A (HAV) outbreaks in the past several years, Louisiana announced yesterday that a hepatitis A outbreak has been declared. The Louisiana Department of Health reports that most of the recent cases have been reported in Morehouse Parish; however, cases have been reported in other parts of the state.
As of December 14, 2018, Louisiana has 28 reported cases of HAV infection, three of which are not linked to the current outbreak. 3/4s of the cases required hospitalization. No deaths have been reported.
Since 1999, when routine HAV immunization of children was recommended by the ACIP of the CDC, the number of yearly reported cases of hepatitis A fell dramatically from over 200 cases in 1999 to only eight cases reported in 2017 in Louisiana. Over the past ten years, an average of nine cases are reported each year
By declaring the 25 known cases to be an outbreak, the health agency hopes to raise the public’s awareness about the disease, convince those who are at risk for hepatitis A to get vaccinated and to best coordinate federal, state and community resources.
Health officials have not identified a common pathway for the source of the virus such as foods, beverages or drugs. Instead, Dr. Frank Welch, immunization director for the Louisiana Department of Health, said transmission of the virus appears to be through direct person-to-person spread and illicit drug use.
Officials add that people with a history of injection and non-injection drug use, homelessness or transient housing and incarceration are most at-risk in this outbreak.
“To address the outbreak, the Department’s Office of Public Health has received one-time funding to purchase vaccine for the virus and is working with partner organizations to provide services to people experiencing homelessness or drug use – two of the most at-risk groups for hepatitis A,” said Welch.
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