The Metro Public Health Department in Nashville has announced a hepatitis A outbreak occurring in the city. Health department officials have established that there have been 14 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A in Nashville since Dec. 1, 2017. The department is now acting quickly in an effort to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common symptoms of the illness include abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), and clay-colored stools. The disease can be severe, possibly requiring hospitalization. Hepatitis A can spread from close personal contact with an infected person or ingestion of food or drinks contaminated by the virus.
Many people who have Hepatitis A are unaware that they have been infected. Up to 70 percent of the infected may never develop any symptoms of the disease while still being able to spread the virus to others. Those that develop mild symptoms may mistake them for an indication of some other type of stomach ailment. Most people who have been infected recover completely within a few weeks.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. Since 2006, the CDC has recommended all young children routinely be vaccinated against hepatitis A. In many states, being vaccinated against the virus is a condition of entering the public school system.
The Metro Public Health Department in Nashville will be offering free hepatitis A vaccines Tuesday at its three health centers: East Health Center, 1015 East Trinity Lane; Lentz Health Center, 2500 Charlotte Ave.; and Woodbine Health Center, 224 Oriel Ave. The health centers are open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays. The centers are closed on Monday for Memorial Day.
Groups designated as at-risk will be given priority for the vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk of exposure to hepatitis A in the current outbreak include people who are homeless, men that have had sexual contact with men, and people who use drugs. Officials say that this is an outbreak that can be contained if at-risk populations are vaccinated quickly.