Indiana health officials are urging residents who plan on traveling to Kentucky or Michigan to get Hepatitis A vaccines as an outbreak of the virus in the states leads to a mounting death toll ahead of the summer travel season.
Here’s what you need to know about hepatitis A at large and this outbreak specifically.
Officials have yet to trace the new Hepatitis A outbreaks in these states to a specific root cause. But one theory posits that a lack of stricter vaccination requirements decades ago means that some older residents may have never gotten their hep A shots.
“[T]he first increase between 2012 and 2013 (1,562 and 1,781 reported cases, respectively), was due to a large multi-state outbreak,” says the agency. “Between 2015 and 2016, the reported cases again increased by 44.4% from 1,390 in 2015 to 2,007 cases in 2016. The 2016 increase was due to two [hep A] outbreaks linked to imported foods.”
What is Hepatitis A and its symptoms?
Hepatitis A is an infectious viral disease that attacks the liver. It’s pretty easily prevented via Hepatitis A vaccines and common sense public health practices such as washing your hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); but it’s also highly contagious, spread through contact with an infected person or tainted food and water.
The Hepatitis A vaccine—how long does it last?
Public health officials in states affected by this latest outbreak emphasized that “all children, ages 1 year through 18, [should] receive the Hepatitis A vaccine, as well as adults who want to prevent themselves from an acute Hepatitis A infection,” as Kentucky Department of Public Health (DPH) acting commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard recently said in a statement.