A southern California city is reporting the “deadliest outbreak” of Hepatitis A that the US has seen in decades.
264 people have been hospitalized and 14 dead since the outbreak of the virus began in November of 2016.
70% of the cases were homeless individuals, lacking good sanitation and immunocompromised due to their lack of nutrition and possible drug/alcohol use. 9 people have died within the last 6 weeks.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a disease that affects the liver. Its caused by a virus (Hepatitis A virus) that is most commonly ingested. Poor hand washing and/or contaminated food are likely culprits. Its transmitted by the fecal-oral route, where food or drink contaminated by fecal matter enters another person’s GI tract. Sexual transmission of Hepatitis A has been reported during activities involving oral-anal sex.
Hepatitis A can live outside the body for months, so unclean dining areas can be contaminated and transfer to food.
Those who are immunosuppressed run the risk of dying from the infection.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include:
Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes
Clay – looking stools
Loss of appetite
What is the treatment for Hepatitis A?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Most hepatitis A infections resolve on their own.
We usually recommend rest, fluids, and offer medications to help with nausea and vomiting.
For liver injury we avoid medications and alcohol that can worsen liver damage. The liver will usually recover within months after hepatitis A infection.
There are vaccines for Hepatitis A included in the childhood vaccination schedule. Those older who weren’t vaccinated as a child can get the vaccine from their local provider or health department. Many states require all health care and food workers to be vaccinated.
The best form of prevention however is good hand washing, dining area hygiene, and cooking food thoroughly.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician