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Hepatitis A Outbreak Springs Up in Nashville

Tennessee joins the list of states currently being plagued by hepatitis A outbreaks.

Hepatitis A continues to plague the United States, leaving health officials scrambling to quell several outbreaks across the country. Now, Tennessee joins the list as officials from the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) have announced an outbreak that has sprung up in the state’s capital: Nashville.

Health officials report a total of 14 confirmed cases since December 1, 2017. However, the true number of cases may be even larger.

“However many cases there are right now, more people are infected already,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is quoted to have said in a recent statement. “It can be a matter of 3 to 4 weeks before you get sick, so nobody knows you’re infected, but you can still transmit the virus.”

Previous to this, Nashville typically we see only about 2 cases per year.

The MPHD has teamed up with officials from the Tennessee Department of Health to work on outbreak control efforts, with a focus on vaccination. In fact, the MPHD announced that they are offering free shots of the vaccine at 3 Health Centers (East Health Center, Lentz Health Center, and Woodbine Health Center) to those who are most at risk: illicit drug users, men who have sex with men, and those who are homeless.

Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that young children receive routine vaccination to protect themselves against hepatitis A. In Tennessee, the estimated vaccination coverage for children between 19 and 35 months of age is around 86.5%, according to CDC data. Additionally, since 2011, the state requires children to get vaccinated against the virus before they can enter daycare or kindergarten.

Several large outbreaks of the virus have been reported across the country since the beginning of last year, with California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah, and West Virginia making the list.

Things are looking up in California, where officials have demobilized outbreak response due to a slowing in cases, but numbers continue to climb in Indiana, with the majority of cases thought to be tied with the ongoing outbreak in Kentucky. The number of cases seems to have slowed a bit in Utah, as the case count in West Virginia reached triple-digits last week.

For the most recent case counts associated with the ongoing hepatitis A outbreaks, be sure to check the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.