Indiana health officials are urging residents who are planning to travel to Kentucky or Michigan to receive hepatitis A vaccinations, as an outbreak of the virus in the states leads to a rising death toll before the summer travel season.
The Kentucky Hepatitis An outbreak has infected more than 300 people in several countries and killed at least three. Even more worrying is the situation in Michigan, where more than 800 cases of hepatitis A have been reported along with more than two dozen deaths. Indiana also reports more hepatitis A infections this year than in 2017, and leading public health experts are pushing to push vaccines for those who have not yet received vaccines.
What you need to know about Hepatitis A is this outbreak specifically. Subscribe to Brainstorm Health Daily our newsletter about the most exciting health innovations.
Why is this hepatitis A outbreak spreading?
Officials must still pursue the new hepatitis An outbreak in these states leads to a specific cause. However, one theory is that a lack of stricter vaccination requirements decades ago means that some older residents have never received their Hep-A vaccines.
The spread of hepatitis A (and not just limited to the states of Kentucky, Michigan, and Indiana-West Coast) as California struggled with the scourge could theoretically be the combined effect of unvaccinated individuals and spoiled substances such as food. As reported by the CDC after a strong downward trend in these viral infections for more than a decade, the reported number of cases increased again about five years ago.
"[T] he first surge between 201
What is Hepatitis A and its symptoms?
Hepatitis A is an infectious viral disease that affects the liver. It is fairly easily prevented by hepatitis A vaccines and common sense public health practices such as hand washing, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); but it is also very contagious, spread through contact with an infected person or spoiled food and water.
Hepatitis A symptoms include various flu-like pains, including fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal and other pains. It can meet children and adults alike. But a major difference between hepatitis A and its viral cousins Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C is that it is usually short-term and does not become a long-lasting chronic condition. There are also vaccines against hepatitis A and B; The same is not true for hepatitis C.
The hepatitis A vaccine – how long does it last?
Public health officials in states affected by this recent outbreak stressed that "all children between the ages of 1 to 18 years [should] receive the hepatitis A vaccine as well as adults who present themselves with an acute Hepatitis A infection, "said Deputy Government Commissioner Jeffrey Howard of Kentucky in a recent statement.
The full vaccine contains two shots, about six months apart. The first shot alone can provide protection – including if you've already been infected (as long as it's administered fast enough), says the CDC. Full vaccination of the vaccination plan (or the infection and subsequent recovery from hepatitis A) usually provides life-long protection – a major reason why hepatitis A rates have dropped an amazing 95% since the vaccine was first introduced in 1995.