Officials with the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) confirmed this week that a hepatitis A outbreak is occurring in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

There have been 14 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A in Nashville since December 1, 2017.  The Metro Public Health Department is working with the Tennessee Department of Health on efforts to control the outbreak.  There has been an average of two cases each year in Nashville over the past few years.

Large hepatitis A outbreaks have been occurring since early 2017 in several other states, including ongoing outbreaks in Kentucky and Indiana, spreading from person to person primarily among people who are homeless and people who use drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk of exposure to hepatitis A in the current outbreaks include: Illicit drug users (not just injection drug use), men who have sexual contact with men and individuals experiencing homelessness.

MPHD will be offering free hepatitis A vaccine beginning Tuesday at all three Health Centers to those three risk groups.  Based on current confirmed cases, our immediate priority includes men who have sexual contact with men, and illicit drug users (injection and non-injection).  MPHD operates three health centers, East Health Center, 1015 East Trinity Lane, Lentz Health Center, 2500 Charlotte Ave., and Woodbine Health Center, 224 Oriel Ave.  MPHD Health Centers are open from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common symptoms include: fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), and clay-colored stools. The disease can be severe in some people possibly requiring hospitalization. Most recover completely within a few weeks. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination.