As of April 2019, Southern Idaho has seen an increase in Hepatitis A cases. Though a common link among cases has not been identified, public health encourages you to protect yourself by getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and using proper hand hygiene.
4/19/2019 News Release: Possible Hepatitis A Exposure on Commercial Bus Route Between Salt Lake City and Boise
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis but a virus often causes hepatitis. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus.
Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death; this is more common in people older than 50 and in people with other liver diseases.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
Contamination of food (this can include frozen and undercooked food) by hepatitis A can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food or water is more likely to occur in countries where hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. In the United States, chlorination of water kills hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) routinely monitors natural bodies of water used for recreation for fecal contamination so there is no need for monitoring for hepatitis A virus specifically.
Older children and adults typically have symptoms. If symptoms develop, they can appear abruptly and can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have hepatitis A. When symptoms are present, young children typically do not have jaundice but most older children and adults with hepatitis A have jaundice.
Symptom Onset & Duration
If symptoms occur, they usually start appearing 4 weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as 2 and as late as 7 weeks after exposure. Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days. Symptoms usually last less than 2 months, although some people (10% to 15%) with hepatitis A can have symptoms for as long as 6 months.
Hepatitis A can be prevented and the best way is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is both safe and effective. To get the full benefit of the hepatitis A vaccine, more than one shot is needed. The number and timing of these shots depends on the type of vaccine you are given.
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 unstable housing or experiencing homelessness
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)
The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective and given as 2 shots, 6 months apart. Both shots are needed for long-term protection. The hepatitis A vaccine also comes in a combination form, containing both hepatitis A and B vaccine, that can be given to anyone 18 years of age and older. This combination vaccine is given as 3 shots, over 6 months. All three shots are needed for long-term protection for both hepatitis A and B.
The hepatitis A vaccine has been routinely recommended for children in Idaho since 1999. However, there are many Idahoans' over the age of 25 who may not have been vaccinated as a child and are susceptible to hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A Vaccine at CDHD
CDHD is offering FREE hepatitis A vaccine to those who do not have health insurance (uninsured) or whose insurance does not cover the entire cost of vaccine. Appointments are required. Please call 208-327-7400 to schedule a vaccine appointment.
Practicing good hand hygiene — including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food — plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.