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TDH Continues Response to Hepatitis A Outbreak

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | 10:11am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health continues to investigate and respond to a hepatitis A outbreak impacting the state with more than 400 cases of illness to date. One death associated with this hepatitis A outbreak has been reported. The outbreak in Tennessee most heavily affects Nashville and Chattanooga.

“We are very saddened by the recent death associated with hepatitis A and realize unfortunately, we could see more deaths, as this continues to be a very serious outbreak with more than half of the people identified with the illness needing hospitalization,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We will continue to respond aggressively, vaccinating high risk populations, educating and working with partners in and out of Tennessee to seek additional ways to stem this outbreak.”

Tennessee’s hepatitis A outbreak is linked to a large, multi-state outbreak that began in 2017. This outbreak is primarily affecting recreational drug users and people experiencing homelessness.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted from one person to another through contact with contaminated feces or consumption of contaminated food or water. The most at-risk groups for hepatitis A include recreational drug users, men who have sex with men and people experiencing homelessness. Many of the hepatitis A cases in the current outbreak are associated with recreational drug use.

“More than 36,000 doses of hepatitis A vaccine have been provided to those most at risk in our state and I believe this massive effort has made a huge difference in reducing the number of hepatitis A cases,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness Tim Jones, MD. “We urge anyone in the high risk groups to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and will continue to work with state and local partners to provide hepatitis A vaccine to people at high risk for infection and educate people on how to prevent the spread of this disease.”

Steps to prevent infection with hepatitis A include washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating and before preparing or serving food. Get vaccinated if you are at high risk for getting hepatitis A. The vaccine can protect you after a single dose.

More information about hepatitis A and Tennessee’s response to this outbreak can be found at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/tennessee-hepatitis-a-outbreak.html.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments.

Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.