In a follow-up on the hepatitis A outbreak in New Hampshire, the DHHS Division of Public Health Services’ (DPHS) Bureau of Infectious Disease Control is reporting 79 outbreak cases as of Tuesday.
Fifty cases required hospitalization and state officials reported the first fatality linked to the outbreak from Merrimack County.
The rate at which cases are being reported are concerning; 33 hepatitis A diagnoses were made in March alone.
New Hampshire typically sees roughly six hepatitis A cases annually.
Hillsborough (36), Strafford (17), Rockingham (10) and Merrimack (10) counties have seen the most cases.
“Hepatitis A is spread by unknowingly getting the virus in your mouth after touching or eating items that are contaminated with small amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person or caring for someone who is ill,” said Beth Daly, Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control. “Hepatitis A is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine, which is vital to stopping this outbreak. People at high risk for infection should talk with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated.”
The virus that causes hepatitis A is contagious and anyone can get it; however, people at highest risk of contracting the virus are:
- people with direct contact with someone with hepatitis A
- people using injection or non-injection recreational drugs, including marijuana
- people experiencing homelessness or with unstable housing (e.g. “couch surfing”)
- gay and bisexual men
- people with ongoing, close contact with high-risk individuals
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