Local Health Experts Weigh in on Hepatitis A Outbreak

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: August 08, 2019 07:00 PM

As a result of the Hepatitis A outbreak in nine Minnesota counties announced by the Minnesota Department of Health(MDH), doctors are urging those at high-risk to get vaccinated.


MDH says 13 cases have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak. The 13 cases have been discharged from the hospital since then. The increase in Hepatitis A cases were noted in May.

“This one is a little bit unusual. We are part of a larger national outbreak that has been going on for a couple of years now,” Ellen Hill, the Northeastern Minnesota epidemiologist for MDH, said.

Since 2016, the Hepatitis A outbreak has affected 29 states, with over 23,600 cases.

“Our current outbreak has hit communities of people who are homeless, don’t have good access to sanitation, and IV drug users,” Andrew Thompson, the physician for St. Luke’s Infectious Disease Clinic, said.

The outbreak also affects people who have been recently incarcerated.

Hepatitis A is described as a contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It's found in the stool of a person who already has Hepatitis A.

The disease is spread from person-to-person via food, beverages, sharing syringes or drug use equipment, or sexual contact with a person who has it.

“We’ve been trying to do everything we can to alert partners potential for the Hepatitis A outbreak and get the vaccine out there into populations that are high risk,” Hill said.

“Adults who are at risk here who might be traveling overseas or have particular risk factors have been vaccinated,” Thompson said.

According to MDH, common symptoms of people who have Hepatitis A include yellowing of skin or eyes, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“Most of the time people get over it after a few weeks. There can be complications that can lead to complete liver failure in some cases,” Thompson said.

Since 2006, the Hepatitis A vaccination has been a universal vaccination recommended among doctors. However, that leaves people born before 2006 at risk.

“The outbreak is not affecting kids as strongly as adults so it’s really important for adults to check their vaccination status,” Hill said.

The vaccine is given as two shots, six months apart. Doctors say once you’re vaccinated, you’re protected for the rest of your life.

That’s why doctors are urging people at high risk to get vaccinated. Doctors also recommend washing your hands with plenty of soap and water after using the bathroom, and before preparing or eating food.

According to the CDC, since the national outbreak started in 2016, there have been over 14,000 hospitalizations and 233 deaths.

For more information on symptoms and prevention, click here.


Alejandra Palacios

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