NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating a hepatitis A outbreak in Nashville, Chattanooga and the Mid-Cumberland Region with nearly 100 cases statewide. This hepatitis A outbreak is linked to a large, multi-state outbreak that has been going on since early 2017, primarily affecting recreational drug users and persons experiencing homelessness in other states including the nearby states of Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.
“We are taking this hepatitis A outbreak very seriously, leaning forward, working with health care providers, numerous community partners and sectors across Tennessee to provide education to all and vaccinate those most at risk for the disease,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Hepatitis A can be a serious and sometimes deadly disease, but the good news is steps can be taken to prevent it, including simply washing your hands and receiving the safe and highly effective hepatitis A vaccine.”
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.
At risk groups:
• Recreational drug users
• Men who have sex with men
• Individuals experiencing homelessness
“We expect to see more hepatitis A cases among unvaccinated people in the at-risk groups in the state,” said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “TDH along with community partners including sheriff’s departments and other organizations that work with people in these high risk categories are making great strides to educate the public and have provided thousands of doses of vaccine so far to people most at risk of becoming infected in this outbreak.”
Preventing Hepatitis A
Steps to prevent infection with hepatitis A include washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating and before preparing or serving food. Get vaccinated if you are at high risk for getting hepatitis A. The vaccine can protect you after a single dose.
Hepatitis A vaccine is covered by most insurance plans; people who wish to be vaccinated should check with their health care provider or pharmacist. Vaccine is also available through local public health departments, especially for adults in at risk groups. Individuals travelling to countries where hepatitis A is common are also recommended to receive vaccine from their health care provider or travel clinic.
Pediatric hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children and has been required for Kindergarten entry in Tennessee since 2011. Hepatitis A vaccine should be considered for any child who has not been vaccinated.
There is no shortage of the hepatitis A vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with manufacturers and states to ensure they have enough vaccine to provide to people at risk for hepatitis A.
More information about hepatitis A and Tennessee’s response to this outbreak can be found at http://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/tennessee-hepatitis-a-outbreak.html.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://www.tn.gov/health.