Arizona is currently experiencing a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A. The Department of Health Services said eight counties are affected: Cochise, Graham, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, and Yavapai. These counties include the two largest metropolitan areas, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as rural areas.
There have been more than 350 cases reported since November 2018, with 80 being reported in April and 86 in May. Of the cases reported, 80 percent have resulted in hospitalization, and there have been two deaths.
While there have been no cases reported in La Paz County, the county borders on two counties that have seen cases reported: Maricopa and Mohave Counties.
The outbreak has affected primarily “at-risk” individuals, which includes illicit drug users, people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, and those who have been recently incarcerated in jail or prison. Of the cases reported, 27 percent had been recently incarcerated. With some overlap for the figures, 48 percent were homeless and used drugs, while 27 percent were drug users only. A total of 22 percent showed none of the risk factors for hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is highly contagious, but it is also effectively preventable. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated. Vaccination is generally recommended for:
- people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing;
- people who use drugs;
- people who have recently been incarcerated; and
- men who have sex with men.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms include:
- nausea and vomiting;
- abdominal pain; and
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
However, some people with hepatitis A do not have symptoms.
Hepatitis A is highly contagious and spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by microscopic 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. People who are infected can spread the virus for about three weeks before and after symptoms appear.
In addition to vaccination, proper hygiene and handwashing can help prevent the spread of the virus.
If you would like to get the hepatitis A vaccine, or if you’re not sure if you have had the vaccine, contact your health care provider or pharmacy. If you think you might have hepatitis A, contact your doctor.
For additional information on hepatitis A in Arizona, please visit azhealth.gov/HepAOutbreak.