The Springfield-Greene County Health Department has seen a significant increase in the number of reported cases of Hepatitis A in recent months.
Persons at highest risk of illness in this outbreak are those who use drugs and their close contacts.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, Hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from contaminated objects, food, or drinks.
In Missouri since 2017
Who is at risk for Hepatitis A?
Although anyone can get Hepatitis A, in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk, such as:
• People who use drugs
• People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness
• Men who have sex with men (MSM)
• People who are, or were recently, incarcerated
• People in treatment or counseling for substance abuse
• People who have been or worked in a jail recently
• Close contacts to any high-risk group
How can a person prevent this illness?
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination. Practicing good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food also plays an important role in preventing the spread of Hepatitis A.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Older children and adults typically have symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can appear abruptly and can include:
• Loss of appetite
• Abdominal pain
• Dark urine
• Light-colored stools
• Joint pain
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Who should get vaccinated against Hepatitis A?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends Hepatitis A vaccination for the following people:
• All children at age 1 year
• Travelers to countries where Hepatitis A is common
• Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where Hepatitis A is common
• Men who have sexual encounters with other men
• Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
• People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
• People with clotting-factor disorders
• People with direct contact with others who have Hepatitis A
• Any person wishing to obtain immunity (protection)