Spokane Regional Health District officials have confirmed three cases of hepatitis A in Spokane County.
One person has been hospitalized, and the other two individuals have recovered. The outbreak is affecting people living homeless, a press release from the health district said.
Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver which can lead to illness. It can be contracted by ingesting undetectable amounts of stool from an infected person or from coming into close contact with an infected person. The virus can also be caught by sharing needles with an infected person.
Vaccines can prevent hepatitis A. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a widespread outbreak of the virus since March 2017 in the United States. The CDC reports that some of the populations that are at the highest risk for contracting the virus are people who use drugs that involve needles and those with unstable housing.
“Hepatitis A infection is caused by poor hygienic conditions and practices and often affects our most vulnerable populations. Ensuring access to sanitary facilities is essential to limit disease,” Dr. Bob Lutz, SRHD health officer, said in a press release. “Importantly, it’s entirely preventable by vaccination.”
Hepatitis A vaccines, taken in two doses, are the best way to prevent the virus from spreading. Symptoms of hepatitis A include yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, joint and abdominal pain.
The health district is working with homeless service providers to make the vaccine available to those at risk of getting the virus. Individuals with symptoms of the virus should seek medical attention. For more information about hepatitis A visit srhd.org.
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