Outbreaks of hepatitis A in several states prompt reminder to protect yourself by getting vaccinated

Since 2016, more than 15,000 people nationwide have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with hepatitis A, and 140 have died. This is a dramatic increase in hepatitis A infections and is caused by person-to-person spread of the virus. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. Large-scale outbreaks have been reported in several states, including Utah and California. Since it is on the rise, it’s a good time to check your immunization status and get the vaccine if you still need it.

What are some of the most common symptoms of hepatitis A?

Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, clay-colored stools, and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). People with hepatitis A can feel sick for several months.

How do you get hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A virus can be picked up from objects, surfaces, food, or drinks contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also be spread through person-to-person contact with an infected person by having sex or caring for someone who is ill.

What’s the best way to reduce your risk of getting infected?

The most effective way to prevent getting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. You can also prevent the spread of the virus by practicing good handwashing after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

Are some people at higher risk for being infected with hepatitis A than others?

Although anyone can get hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk, including:

  • People with direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • Men who have sexual contact with men.
  • People who use recreational drugs.
  • People who are homeless or unstably housed.

How do I know if I have been vaccinated against hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A vaccine has been routinely recommended for children starting when they are a year old in Idaho since 1999. However, there are many Idahoans over the age of 25 who may not have been vaccinated as a child. Lack of immunity among certain age groups may be playing a role in the current hepatitis A outbreaks in several states. To check your hepatitis A vaccination status, look at your immunization record or contact your healthcare provider.

Where can I get vaccinated against hepatitis A?

Adult hepatitis A vaccine is available at some healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, and health departments. To find the vaccine closest to you, talk with your healthcare provider, health department, or visit www.vaccinefinder.org.

What should you do if you think you might have been exposed to hepatitis A?

If you have any questions about potential exposure to hepatitis A, call your healthcare provider or your local health department. If you were recently exposed to the virus and have not been vaccinated, you might benefit from an injection of either hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. However, they are only effective if given within the two weeks after exposure. A healthcare provider can decide what is best based on your age and overall health.

Resources

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from April 2.) 

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