News Flash

Health - Public Health News

Posted on: August 12, 2019

Washington State Hepatitis A Outbreak

Washington State is experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak in multiple counties. There are 14 cases in King, Pend Oreille, Snohomish, and Spokane counties among people living homeless or using drugs. Currently there are no cases in Whatcom County.

Hepatitis A (hep A) is a very contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually spread from person to person when someone accidentally comes into contact with poop from someone who is sick with hepatitis A. It can be spread through:

  • Sharing food.
  • Touching contaminated objects.
  • Sex with someone who has hepatitis A.

Even a small amount of virus particles can make a person sick.

Am I at risk of getting hepatitis A?

Anyone who isn’t vaccinated can get hepatitis A, but people who are vaccinated against hep A are protected against the disease.

People who are experiencing unstable housing or homelessness or who use drugs are at greater risk for hep A, especially if they don’t have access to sanitation, restrooms, and handwashing facilities.

Other people who are vulnerable are:

  • People who use injection or non-injection drugs.
  • People who have chronic liver disease.
  • Men who have sex with men.

How you can prevent hepatitis A

The best protection against hep A is the hepatitis A vaccine. Learn more about hep A vaccine recommendations, check your immunization status, and talk to your health care provider about getting vaccinated.

Be sure to wash your hands well after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

What we’re doing

We work daily with our state and local public health partners to monitor for diseases like hepatitis A, and when there are cases in Washington State, we step up our efforts to coordinate with them. We also:

  • Continue to offer the hepatitis A vaccine to people without insurance or who otherwise lack access to the vaccine.
  • Work with community partners who serve people living homeless to promote sanitization and vaccination.
  • Alert health care providers and social service providers to the risk and what they can do, and communicate regularly with them.

For more information:

Hepatitis A Outbreak (Washington State Department of Health)

Hepatitis A Fact Sheet (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Hepatitis A Vaccine (Washington State Department of Health)

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