HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently announced $50,000 in state funding for vaccines and outreach to slow the spread of hepatitis A. Pennsylvania is currently in the midst of a hepatitis A outbreak, along with 28 additional states, including neighboring states New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia.
“We must do everything in our power to prevent hepatitis A from further spreading across the commonwealth,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “This funding will help us provide vaccines and outreach to the communities hardest hit by this outbreak. Although Philadelphia and Bucks counties are seeing the majority of cases, we are continuing to observe an increase throughout much of the state.”
Pennsylvania declared a hepatitis A outbreak in May. From January 2018 until early August of 2019, Pennsylvania has seen 376 outbreak-related hepatitis A cases, with 82 percent of patients hospitalized and seven deaths. The case count for 2019 is nearly nine times the number expected based on historical data.
In addition to using the state funds to purchase vaccines, the Department of Health is exploring federal funding streams that will be used to enhance Pennsylvania’s outbreak response by purchasing additional vaccines and providing more local hepatitis A outreach.
“We are urging residents to remain aware of this outbreak as the department works to treat Pennsylvanians suffering from this illness and prevent it from spreading,” Secretary of Health Dr. Levine said. “Hepatitis A is preventable, and the best way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A is through vaccination. It is also recommended that you wash your hands regularly and talk to your doctor immediately if you think you have been exposed to hepatitis A.”
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is spread person-to-person after putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the feces of a person infected with hepatitis A. It is a vaccine-preventable illness. Residents can also take further steps to prevent hepatitis A by washing their hands regularly, including after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before preparing or eating food.
People most at risk of contracting hepatitis A include:
- Someone who has encountered a person who has hepatitis A;
- People who use injected illicit drugs;
- People who are homeless; and
- Men who have sex with other men.
Symptoms can be mild and last several weeks. More severe infections can last several months or can be fatal. Many people infected do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and jaundice.
If you have symptoms, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, drink a lot of water, stay away from alcohol, and talk with your doctor before taking any medications, including over-the-counter drugs.
If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis A, contact your physician for further testing. While there is no treatment, your doctor can monitor and treat your symptoms. If you are uninsured or underinsured, contact 1-877-PA-HEALTH to find a state health center near you where you can be tested and monitored.
For more information about hepatitis A, visit www.health.pa.gov.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health
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