Infection with the virus can make someone very sick. Twenty-six US states are currently experiencing active hepatitis A outbreaks. In the current outbreaks, over 60% of people who contract it have required hospitalization.
October is Liver Awareness Month and a great time to talk about hepatitis A vaccination with your doctor or pharmacist. Since 2017, substantial increases in hepatitis A have occurred, with nearly 40,000 cases reported. While people who use drugs, people experiencing homelessness, and men who have sex with men are most often at risk, nearly one third of people with hepatitis A have no identified risk factor.
Hepatitis A patient Stan was 66 years old and in the best shape of his life, having just completed a half-marathon, when he contracted hepatitis A and his life was changed. He believes he contracted the virus through food at a restaurant. His symptoms began as mild and sporadic and felt like the flu, but as his symptoms of nausea continued he was rushed to the ER and told that his liver was failing. Stan underwent a liver transplant and fortunately is doing well today, but regrets not knowing that vaccination for hepatitis A is available.
85% adults in the US have not been vaccinated for Hepatitis A; creating opportunities for infection, as it can be transmitted person-to-person or through contaminated food or drink.
Foodborne outbreaks of the virus can occur when someone eats fresh and frozen food products that are contaminated with Hepatitis A. It can be transmitted where food is prepared and served by food handlers who may be infected with the virus.
Stories from real people affected by hepatitis A remind us why everyone, not just high-risk groups or travelers, should discuss vaccination with their healthcare provider.