By NewsDesk @bactiman63
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced the declaration of a hepatitis A outbreak in the Keystone State, making it the 23th state to do so since mid-2016.
Since January 2018, 171 cases have been reported in 36 counties, with Philadelphia and Allegheny counties being hardest hit by this outbreak to date.
“We are taking this action now to be proactive in our response to treating Pennsylvanians suffering from this illness and prevent it from spreading. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination”, said Dr. Levine. By declaring an outbreak, Pennsylvania is eligible for federal funds to purchase additional vaccine if it is needed.
Neighboring states, Ohio and West Virginia have been battling outbreaks recording 2298 cases/8 deaths and 2513 cases/21 deaths, respectively.
“It’s hard to know for sure why we are experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A,” Dr. Levine said. “We do know that the commonwealth has seen an increase of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV because of the opioid epidemic.”
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is spread person to person after putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the feces of a person infected with hepatitis A. It is a vaccine preventable illness.
People most at risk of contracting hepatitis A are:
- Someone who has encountered a person who has hepatitis A;
- People who use injected illicit drugs;
- People who are homeless; and
- Men who have sex with other men.
Symptoms can be mild and last several weeks. More severe infections can last several months. Many people infected do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and jaundice.
Since the hepatitis A outbreaks were first identified in 2016, more than 17,000 cases reported and at least 170 deaths as a result of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection have been reported.
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