On Monday, public health officials have declared hepatitis A outbreak, citing 171 confirmed cases since January 2018 across 36 counties, including Philadelphia.
This announcement has made Pennsylvania eligible for getting federal funds for purchasing additional doses of hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine will be given to the groups that are considered at a greater risk of exposure to the infection, such as the homeless and illicit drug abusers.
Rachel Levine, the Secretary of Health, along with Sharon Watkins, the state epidemiologist, made the declaration after considering the fact there has been a surge in hepatitis A cases.
Of the 171 cases, over 60 have been identified since January 2019, said the spokesperson for the state Department of Health Nate Wardle.
So far, hepatitis A outbreaks have been declared in 22 other states, with more than 2,000 confirmed cases have been reported in West Virginia and Ohio.
Nate Wardle said, “The 171 cases in Pennsylvania include close to 40 cases in Philadelphia and two dozen in Allegheny County.”
The state health department is not recommending everyone to rush out and get the vaccine. Instead, the immediate focus is on providing the vaccine to the groups that are at greater risk; most of these people were known to born before the vaccine became widely available.
The hepatitis A vaccine was developed around the mid-1990s. Since 2006, it has been recommended for all children.
Hepatitis A is a contagious infection that is typically transmitted through contaminated food and water that is prepared under unsanitary conditions. However, the current outbreak in Pennsylvania is not due to food contamination. Levine said in a news release, “It’s hard to know for sure why we are experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A. We do know that the commonwealth has seen an increase of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV because of the opioid epidemic.”