Pennsylvania Hepatitis A Outbreak: What you should know
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver transmitted by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Another way of transfer is by consuming contaminated food which could occur due to an infected person not washing their hands. Humans are the only carriers of the disease, so animal feces are not a concern in this situation. For more detailed information on hepatitis A you can visit the CDC website. You can also view more information at the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
What puts me at risk?
In Pennsylvania, the most highly affected populations are homeless and people who use injectable drugs. Contact with an infected individual usually proved to be less of a concern in the workplace, school, or daycare but can be significant if you are living with the infected person according to a 2010 study by the CDC. Travel to areas in which Hepatitis A is more prevalent is also a concern.
Where is this disease most prevalent?
In Pennsylvania, there has been a total of 171 cases reported through May 11th. Most of the cases have been concentrated around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Hepatitis A is most common in foreign countries, particularly in Africa and South America. Before you travel, be sure to check the CDC website for all of the recommended vaccinations for the areas you are traveling to.
What can I do to keep myself protected from this disease?
The vaccine for hepatitis A was approved in late 90s and became recommended for all children as a part of their normal vaccinations in 2006. It is an inactive 2-dose vaccine with at least 6 months between doses. For more information on the hepatitis A vaccine you can visit the CDC website.
What should you do?
If you’re concerned about this disease and have not been vaccinated, you can get both doses of the vaccine at Gatti Pharmacy without a prescription - just ask a pharmacist. It is not necessary however, unless you live in a situation that puts you at risk of the disease (as outlined above) or are traveling to a foreign country where the disease is common (resources available on the CDC website). If you are concerned that you may have been infected with hepatitis A, call your doctor immediately, there are limited treatments for hepatitis A infection but it must be identified as soon as possible.
Please feel free to reach out and contact us if you have any other questions or concerns.