The Vermont Department of Health is warning residents about a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A.
The state says it joins 30 other states, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts, that have seen a marked increase in the number of cases. Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the outbreak in Vermont is in its early stages and health officials had been anticipating it based on what’s happened in other states.
He says the Health Department is working with providers to make sure that Vermonters are vaccinated. In 2019, Vermont had 12 cases of acute hepatitis A, compared with the previous five-year average of three cases per year.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver infection with symptoms that trange from a mild infection to liver failure and death. The virus is generally spread by person-to-person contact, primarily through the fecal-oral route.
The majority of cases in Vermont and nationally are among people with these risk factors:
- people with a history of drug use
- people who are experiencing unstable housing or homelessness
- individuals who are currently or who were recently incarcerated
- people with chronic liver disease including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C
- men who have sex with men.
Thorough handwashing and sanitary practices are important to help prevent it from spreading.