Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Outbreak Situation Update

Last updated: 3/21/18

With over 700 cases and 21 deaths, California’s largest person-to-person (not related to a common source or contaminated food product) hepatitis A outbreak of this century continues and new cases of hepatitis A are still occurring amongst people experiencing homelessness and using illicit drugs (both injectable and non-injectable). Alameda County does not have reported outbreak associated cases at this time. This is a dynamic situation that could change at any moment. The vigilance and actions of providers and partners is critical to prevent a hepatitis A outbreak in our jurisdiction. We encourage all medical providers to please continue to:

  • BE AWARE of hepatitis A symptoms
  • ASK about hepatitis A risk factors
  • VACCINATE all individuals in risk groups for hepatitis A disease
  • REPORT all suspected and confirmed hepatitis A cases immediately to the Public Health Department

A high demand of single antigen hepatitis A vaccine resulted in a national vaccine shortage toward the end of 2017.  Currently, issues with single antigen vaccine supply and ordering appear to be resolved.  Medical providers should now be vaccinating based on their own inventory instead of trying to ration or prioritize hepatitis A vaccine.

Administer hepatitis A vaccine to any person exposed to a case of hepatitis A (household/sexual contact) and continue to vaccinate all persons in the following risk groups:

  • Persons currently experiencing homelessness
  • Persons using illicit drugs
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Persons with chronic liver disease
  • Persons traveling to or working in countries where hepatitis A is common

If inventory permits, also consider vaccinating persons with close contact to individuals in high risk groups listed above as well as anyone seeking protection from hepatitis A disease.

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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