Hepatitis A outbreaks
This morning I read about a hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia. The source is apparently contaminated strawberries used to make smoothies. So far, 40 people have become sick.
This outbreak follows on the heels of another in Hawaii, where 168 cases of the virus have been linked to frozen scallops.
Let these outbreaks be a reminder or an incentive to anyone NOT vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus—get vaccinated!
The hepatitis A virus attacks your liver and causes varying degrees of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. It rarely causes long-term liver damage or death, but it’s extremely unpleasant and the symptoms can hang on for weeks or even months.
It’s easily spread through contaminated food (officially and unpleasantly described as fecal-oral transmission, ew!). In the United States, most hepatitis A outbreaks start in restaurants. This is why it’s important for food handlers to wash their hands after using the bathroom. Please!
Hepatitis A vaccine
The vaccine has been available in the US since 1995. It has been a part of routine childhood immunization schedules since about 1999.
But many adults remain unvaccinated.
Related post: Adults need vaccinations, too!
The vaccine requires two shots at about a 6-month interval. It’s available at many pharmacies, or your primary care doctor might keep it on hand. You can call to find out.
Because it’s considered one of the “preventive care” measures under the Affordable Care Act, both shots should be covered 100% by your health insurance. As always, however, call your insurance company to confirm.
If you don’t have insurance, check with your local public health department. They usually offer vaccinations at a reduced rate, or free if your income qualifies you.
The vaccine is well tolerated and generally doesn’t have any side effects, other than a sore arm.
For more information on all types of vaccinations, check out my Resources page.