Hepatitis A Outbreak

Hepatitis A Overview

Hepatitis A is a short-term viral infection causing inflammation of the liver. Infection can be prevented by receiving the hepatitis A vaccine. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Many children and adults who become infected never develop symptoms, but for those who do, symptoms usually develop two to six weeks after being exposed. Symptoms include fever, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine and yellow skin (jaundice).

How is hepatitis A infection spread?  

Most people get hepatitis A by person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection or through eating or drinking food or water contaminated by an infected person. People can also get hepatitis A through sex or by close contact with an infected person, such as a household member.

Certain adults who may be at higher risk for hepatitis A include:

  • People who use injection or non-injection drugs
  • People who are homeless
  • People who are or recently were incarcerated
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common

NOTE: People with chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis or hepatitis B or C are at increased risk of complications if infected with hepatitis A. 

What if I think I have hepatitis A infection? 

If you think you may have hepatitis A, see your medical provider. A blood test determines if someone has a hepatitis A infection. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your doctor might provide treatment to lessen symptoms. Those with severe illness may need to be placed in the hospital for care as they recover. Hepatitis A is a reportable condition, meaning a medical provider is required to report a confirmed case of the illness to DHEC. If you have hepatitis A, please follow treatment and preventative measures recommended by your medical provider to help reduce the risk of spreading the illness.

What can people do to protect themselves and their communities?

Get vaccinated against hepatitis A. The hepatitis A vaccine is the best form of protection! Wash your hands after using the restroom and before eating or preparing meals for yourself or others.

Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?

All children aged 12 months to 18 years are recommended to get two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. 

Adults who were not vaccinated as children may be vaccinated at any time. 

Certain adults who may be at higher risk for hepatitis A infection should be vaccinated, including:

  • People who use injection or non-injection drugs
  • People who are homeless
  • People who are or recently were incarcerated
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with chronic liver disease like cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C
  • People who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic liver disease like cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C as they have an increased risk of complications if infected with hepatitis A

Where can people get the hepatitis A vaccine?

Talk to your medical provider about the hepatitis A vaccine. In South Carolina, adults 18 years and older can get vaccinated at some local pharmacies without a prescription, depending on your insurance coverage. To search for a nearby pharmacy that offers vaccines, visit www.vaccinefinder.org.

DHEC’s local health departments also provide hepatitis A vaccines. DHEC has an Adult Vaccine Program that provides low-cost vaccines for uninsured or underinsured individuals who are 19 years and older.

DHEC’s local health departments are currently providing no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to individuals in at-risk groups (drug users, homeless, recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men).

To schedule an appointment for vaccination at your local health department, call 855-472-3432 or visit www.scdhec.gov/health/health-public-health-clinics.

Hepatitis A Outbreak in South Carolina

Hepatitis A cases began to increase in South Carolina in fall 2018. An outbreak of hepatitis A was declared in Aiken County on Feb. 13, 2019 and DHEC declared a statewide outbreak on May 13, 2019. This outbreak coincides with a national hepatitis A outbreak that began in 2016. Cases have occurred primarily among three risk groups: people who use injection or non-injection drugs, people experiencing homelessness, and men who have sex with men.

Outbreak - Associated Hepatitis A cases in South Carolina (November 1, 2018 – July 12, 2019)

Outbreak-associated hepatitis A data are as follows:

  • Total number of cases = 207
  • Hospitalizations = 148 (71% of cases)
  • Deaths = 1 (1% of cases)
SC Map of Confirmed Hepatitis A Cases July 12, 2019

 

Graph of Confirmed Hepatitis A Cases July 12, 2019

Possible Exposures At Restaurants

References and additional information

Tags

Infectious Diseases