February 26, 2020
Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) has confirmed 91 cases of hepatitis A (hep A) in Spokane County since April 2019 and of those, the majority of cases have been hospitalized. While there are many risk factors for hep A, this outbreak is affecting people living homeless.
Hep A virus causes inflammation of the liver resulting in illness ranging from a mild infection with no symptoms to a more severe illness that can result in liver failure and death. Hep A virus usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from touching objects or ingesting food or drinks contaminated with undetectable amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also be spread from close, personal contact with an infected person; this includes caring for an infected person or using drugs with others. Hep A is a vaccine-preventable disease.
Hep A vaccination is recommended for all children at age one year, travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common, people experiencing homelessness, men who have sex with men, people who use or inject drugs, people with chronic or long-term liver disease, people with clotting factor disorders, people with direct contact with others who have hep A, family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common, and anyone wishing to obtain immunity.
SRHD is working with homeless service providers to make the vaccine available and to educate high-risk individuals. SRHD recommends the vaccine to the risk groups listed above, which can be obtained from healthcare providers and pharmacies.
Anyone with symptoms consistent with hep A should seek medical attention.