The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports two cases of hepatitis A infection have been confirmed in Rio Arriba County. Both are related to the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Bernalillo County that, since last November, has accounted for most of cases in the state. The outbreak continues to primarily impact people who use injection or non-injection drugs and people experiencing homelessness.
In total, there have been 145 acute hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections with two associated deaths in adults ranging in age from 19-to-73 years old. Of those cases, 137 of them have been identified in Bernalillo County; six cases in Santa Fe County; and now the two in Rio Arriba County since the outbreak began.
Nationally, since the hepatitis A outbreaks associated with person to person transmission were first identified in 2016, more than 25,000 cases and 259 deaths resulting from hepatitis A infection have been reported.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person.
The risk of hepatitis A infection is associated with poor sanitation and hygiene and is primarily transmitted through close contact, including sexual contact, with an infectious person or sharing of contaminated food and drink.
Hepatitis A infection typically causes fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Those at increased risk for hepatitis A include:
- Persons who use injection and non-injection drugs
- Persons experiencing homelessness or transient housing
- Persons with direct contact with a person who has hepatitis A
- Men who have sex with men
“Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A infection during an outbreak,” said New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel.
NMDOH has provided more than 5700 hepatitis A vaccinations to the at-risk populations throughout the state; and is working with community partners to increase awareness and education to help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Handwashing with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food, plays an important role in preventing the spread of the virus.
Those at risk and their contacts should see their healthcare provider to obtain a hepatitis A vaccine, individuals can also be referred to their local public health office for vaccination.
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