Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Outbreak Situation Update

Last updated: 9/14/2017

Outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring among persons who are homeless and/or using illicit drugs in San Diego County and Santa Cruz County. To prevent and control hepatitis A outbreaks, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) recommend offering Hepatitis A vaccine to persons who are homeless or who might be using illicit injection or non-injection drugs, and to consider offering it to persons who have frequent close contact with persons who are homeless or using illicit drugs (e.g., in homeless shelters, jails, food pantries, drug rehabilitation programs, etc.). Although there have been no reported hepatitis A cases in Alameda County associated with these outbreaks or among the homeless in Alameda County, ACPHD encourages hepatitis A vaccination to prevent an outbreak from occurring locally.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable contagious disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It causes acute inflammation of the liver (hepatitis means inflamed liver) and does not become a chronic condition unlike other Hepatitis infections such as B, C or D. After an individual is infected with Hepatitis A they cannot catch it again as the body develops antibodies to protect against future exposures.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)

How is Hepatitis A spread?

The hepatitis A virus is usually spread by putting something in your mouth that is contaminated by the stool (poop) of another person who is infected with hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is contracted through:

  • household contact with an infected person
  • sexual contact with an infected person
  • eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • sharing eating utensils that are contaminated
  • touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in the mouth

What can I do to protect myself?

Immunization is the best protection

It is recommended that children 12 months through 18 years of age be given the two dose vaccine series. A single dose vaccine is effective protection for most healthy adults and is especially recommended for those travelling to an area where Hepatitis A is endemic.

Practice good hand hygiene

Because so many cases of hepatitis A are due to close contact with an infected person, you should always practice good personal hygiene. The simple act of washing your hands can protect you against Hepatitis A and other diseases.

What should I do if I think I have been exposed to Hepatitis A?

If you believe you were exposed to Hepatitis A contact your health care provider or local health department. If you were recently exposed to Hepatitis A virus and have not been vaccinated against it, an injection of Hepatitis A vaccine may be recommended and needs to be given within first two weeks after exposure to be effective. Consult with your health care provider to collaborate on making the best decision for you and your family.

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