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Metro Public Health Department Confirms Hepatitis A Outbreak in Nashville, Increases Immunization Efforts Among At-Risk Groups

5/25/2018

Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) officials announced today details of a hepatitis A outbreak that is occurring in Nashville. There have been 14 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A in Nashville since December 1, 2017. The Metro Public Health Department is working with the Tennessee Department of Health on efforts to control the outbreak. There has been an average of two cases each year in Nashville over the past few years.

Large hepatitis A outbreaks have been occurring since early 2017 in several other states, including ongoing outbreaks in Kentucky and Indiana, spreading from person to person primarily among people who are homeless and people who use drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk of exposure to hepatitis A in the current outbreaks include:

  • Illicit drug users (not just injection drug use)
  • Men who have sexual contact with men
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness

MPHD will be offering free hepatitis A vaccine beginning Tuesday at all three Health Centers to those three risk groups. Based on current confirmed cases, our immediate priority includes men who have sexual contact with men, and illicit drug users (injection and non-injection). MPHD operates three health centers, East Health Center, 1015 East Trinity Lane, Lentz Health Center, 2500 Charlotte Ave., and Woodbine Health Center, 224 Oriel Ave. MPHD Health Centers are open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.

The Metro Public Health Department has hepatitis A vaccine available for children and adults. Since 2006, the CDC has recommended all young children routinely be vaccinated against hepatitis A; the vaccine has been required for daycare and kindergarten entry in Tennessee since 2011. All children under 19 years who do not have private insurance coverage for vaccines, including uninsured and TennCare-eligible children, may be vaccinated through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program by their health care provider or at any local health department. The cost for vaccine is $40 for children not eligible for the VFC program who are 18 years old and younger.

The vaccine can also be found at area health care providers in Nashville for those with insurance. Many insurance plans cover the costs of hepatitis A vaccine without a deductible or co-pay, if administered by an in-network health care provider.

MPHD issued a health alert to health care providers in Nashville about the outbreak, a reminder about symptoms, and for providers to report cases to the Health Department.

MPHD has initiated a community awareness campaign that focuses on outbreak updates, and steps to follow to prevent exposure to Hepatitis A. Updates and prevention messaging such as the importance of hand washing and the use of a vaccine to protect against the virus for those at risk can be found on the Health Department's website, Facebook Page, and Twitter social media platforms.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common symptoms include: fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), and clay-colored stools. The disease can be severe in some people possibly requiring hospitalization. Most recover completely within a few weeks. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination.

For more information visit the Centers For Disease Control's Hepatitis Information page.

The mission of the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) is to protect, improve, and sustain health and wellbeing for all people in Metropolitan Nashville. More than 450 Health Department employees provide essential public health services for the resident population of more than 600,000 people, with a total Department budget of more than $60 million. Our three public health centers, nutrition center, and Metro Animal Care and Control provide services and programs throughout a diverse and growing community.

As Nashville's local Health Department, we connect people to essential public health services, we enforce health regulations, and we lead and participate in collaborative efforts to create healthy conditions for everyone in Nashville. To keep up with the latest information about MPHD visit our website at health.nashville.gov or follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MPHDNashville) and Twitter (@NashvilleHealth).