The general rule of thumb was that as a United States citizen, if you planned on traveling to foreign countries you should get your Hepatitis A vaccination. However, it is becoming more and more apparent you don’t have to go outside the United States to be exposed.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), 206 people have been confirmed to have become ill with hepatitis A. Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 12, 2016 to August 9, 2016. All cases have been in adults and 51 have required hospitalization.
In Virginia, 28 cases have been reported and these adults were contaminated between August 5th through 8th, 2016.
Just yesterday two cases were reported in Michigan.
In Hawaii and Virginia the cases were linked to foodborne HAV. Hawaii - from frozen scallops from the Philippines and in Virginia - frozen strawberries from Egypt. In Michigan, the report comes after heavy rains and basement flooding where the residents came in contact with sewage.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Hepatitis A is a disease that originates in and is spread by people, rather than animals. It can occur when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. However, food (as is suspected in the first two outbreaks) or water (in Michigan).contaminated with HAV can cause outbreaks of disease.
In rare cases, particularly in patients with pre-existing severe illness or who are immunocompromised, HAV infection can progress to liver failure and death.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?
The symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, headache and/or body ache, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, dark-colored urine, pale-colored stools, as well as yellow skin and eyes (Jaundice—may develop several days to a week after other symptoms begin).
Infants and young children with hepatitis A infection tend to have milder or no symptoms and are less likely to develop jaundice than are older children and adults.
Illness usually occurs from two weeks to as long as 50 days after exposure to the hepatitis A virus (i.e., consuming the contaminated product).
You should seek medical attention immediately if you develop symptoms.
Routine vaccination against hepatitis A has reduced the risk of this disease so it is not a bad idea to get vaccinated regardless of your travels.
Vaccination is available to anyone, but specifically recommended for all children and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Hepatitis A vaccine is available from health care providers (including some pharmacies and travel clinics) to protect against this disease.
Sources include, but are not limited to: KITV.com, CDC, The Oakland Press, Deadline Detroit