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Officials: Utah Hep A Outbreak Over

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. Over the past two years, six other states have experienced outbreaks, and although demand for the vaccine outpaced supply earlier this year, there is enough supply to satisfy current needs, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In a release this week Utah public health officials said after no new cases reported in the last 100 days the outbreak of Hepatits A in the state has ended

Officials said the outbreak lasted nearly two years and killed three people. Another 281 were infected during that time.

Most people affected by the outbreak were living along the Wasatch Front and reported “illicit substance use and/or were experiencing homelessness,” said Bree Barbeau, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.

Officials included reminders of symptoms of and vaccinations for Hepatitis A in their release:

“Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus.  Hepatitis A signs and symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure and may include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever

Symptoms can range from a mild illness to a severe illness lasting several months. People usually get hepatitis A by having close contact with someone who is infected, from food or drinks prepared by someone who is infected, or by eating shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water. Sexual contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis A can also pose a risk for infection.

A vaccine to prevent against hepatitis A infection has been part of routine childhood immunization recommendations in Utah since 2002. Dr. Dagmar Vitek, Salt Lake County Health Department medical director explains, “The vaccine is typically given in two or three doses, depending on the formulation and is nearly 100% effective at preventing illness. To reduce your risk of catching or spreading the hepatitis A virus, always wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom, before preparing or eating food, and after coming in contact with fecal material.” The hepatitis A vaccine is available through health care providers, local public health department clinics, and pharmacies.

The vaccine is safe and effective for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Contact your health care provider to determine whether you might be at risk for contracting hepatitis A.

More information about the outbreak is available online. Anyone with questions about hepatitis A should contact their doctor or local public health department.

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