Hepatitis A, the Other Vaccine-Preventable Outbreak

Serologic testing is not required to administer a hepatitis A vaccine
restaurant black board
(Precision Vaccinations)

When discussing vaccine-preventable hepatitis A infections, many people think about contaminated food and water. However, in 2022, hepatitis A remains a common person-to-person spread virus.

And the risk for hepatitis A virus (HAV) transmission has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since hepatitis A outbreaks were first identified in 2016, thirty-seven U.S. states have publicly reported 43,705 cases and 420 related fatalities to the U.S. CDC as of February 11, 2022.

Furthermore, 22 states are reporting additional hepatitis A cases in 2022.

The HeartLand-states of Ohio (3,763), Tennessee (3,167), and Indiana (2,660) are the unfortunate leaders.

During the widespread outbreak, Florida (5,103) and Kentucky (5,081) reported the most hepatitis A cases in the USA.

Because hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver, people with other forms of viral hepatitis and anyone with underlying liver disease are at risk of more severe illness if infected.

People at risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing severe complications from HAV infection during the current hepatitis A outbreaks should be prioritized to receive the hepatitis A vaccine as soon as possible, says the CDC.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through food or water that has been contaminated with small, undetectable amounts of feces from a contagious person. Individuals who use drugs, who are experiencing homelessness, or men who have sex with men are at the highest risk for infection during the current outbreak. 

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and stomach pain. Jaundice, dark-colored urine, and clay-colored bowel movements may also occur. 

These symptoms appear on average 28 days following infection. 

In addition, anyone exhibiting these symptoms should refrain from preparing food for others. Infected individuals can transmit the virus to others two weeks before and one week after jaundice appears.

For example, NBC10 Philadelphia reported in late January 2022, health officials confirmed a third death in a hepatitis A outbreak in Montgomery County, PA, linked to Gino’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in West Norriton.

The Montgomery County Office of Public Health (MCOPH) recently revealed ten confirmed virus cases. The seven survivors were hospitalized but later released.

“The restaurant owner provided a list of restaurant employees working during the exposure period who are expected to return to the restaurant following re-opening,” an MCOPH spokesperson wrote. 

“All employees on the list completed voluntary testing for Hepatitis A and were offered Hepatitis A vaccination.”

‘The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A is through vaccination,’ says the CDC. One dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to control hepatitis A outbreaks.

Moreover, prevaccination serologic testing is not required to administer a hepatitis A vaccine. 

And vaccinations should not be postponed if vaccination history cannot be obtained or records are unavailable.

An updated list of U.S. FDA Approved hepatitis vaccines and vaccine candidates are published on this webpage.

PrecisionVaccinations publishes fact-checked research-based antibody, antiviral, and vaccine news.