WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Health Department officials confirmed on Friday that a Hepatitis A outbreak is happening in Nashville.
- Most of the 14 confirmed cases, which appear to be linked, were found in illegal drug users and males having sex with the same sex.
- Health officials are doing immunization efforts, but with only 1,150 doses of vaccine on hand, there is going to be a problem.
The Metro Public Health Department officials announced that there have been 14 established cases of acute Hepatitis A in Nashville, Tennessee since December of last year. Hepatitis A is a preventable liver infection that is highly contagious.
Mayo Clinic writes that it often spreads when you eat or drink something contaminated with fecal matter, even just tiny amounts. Having sex with someone who is infected or even being in close contact with them can transmit the disease, according to Metro Public Health.
Some people who have Hepatitis A don’t even know it, but common symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite. Also according to Mayo Clinic, hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage, and it doesn’t become chronic.
Other states that have had Hepatitis A outbreaks over the past year or so include Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky Michigan, Utah and West Virginia.
What makes it more challenging for Nashville to control the outbreak is the shortage of vaccine. Faced with this dilemma, public health officials encourage people to practice good hygiene by washing hands thoroughly especially after using the toilet
The Hepatitis A vaccine offers more than 90% protection against the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The health agency also warns individuals who are at greatest risk of exposure to the virus:
- Illicit drug users (injection and non-injection).
- Men who have sexual contact with men
- Individuals experiencing homelessness
WSMV reports that the health department will be offering free hepatitis A vaccines for the three risk groups beginning Tuesday at East Health Center, Lentz Health Center, and Woodbine Health Center. These Health Centers are open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays but the centers will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.