Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced that Pennsylvania has declared an outbreak of hepatitis A, with 171 cases in 36 counties since January 2018.
“The counties hardest hit by this outbreak are Philadelphia and Allegheny, but we have seen an increase of cases throughout much of the state,” Dr. Levine said. “We are taking this action now to be proactive in our response to treating Pennsylvanians suffering from this illness and prevent it from spreading. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination.”
Dr. Levine noted that neighboring states of Ohio and West Virginia have seen more than 2,000 cases since January 2018. By declaring an outbreak, Pennsylvania is eligible for federal funds to purchase additional vaccine if it is needed.
“It’s hard to know for sure why we are experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A,” Dr. Levine said. “We do know that the commonwealth has seen an increase of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV because of the opioid epidemic.”
The department has launched enhanced hepatitis A information, including an interactive map with vaccine clinics on its website at health.pa.gov.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is spread person to person after putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the feces of a person infected with hepatitis A. It is a vaccine preventable illness.
People most at risk of contracting hepatitis A are:Someone who has encountered a person who has hepatitis A; People who use injected illicit drugs; People who are homeless; and Men who have sex with other men.
Symptoms can be mild and last several weeks. More severe infections can last several months. Many people infected do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and jaundice.
If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis A, contact your physician for further testing. While there is no treatment, your doctor can monitor and treat your symptoms. If you are uninsured or underinsured, contact 1-877-PA-HEALTH to find a state health center nearest you where you can be tested and monitored.
For more information about the Department of Health, visit www.health.pa.gov or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.