Hepatitis A Outbreak in Tennessee Turns Fatal

Nashville and Chattanooga most heavily affected by the Tennessee hepatitis A outbreak

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak has reported 449 confirmed cases, 279 hospitalizations, and 1 fatality, as of November 9, 2018.

This hepatitis A outbreak most heavily affects the cities of Nashville and Chattanooga. 

“We are very saddened by the recent death associated with hepatitis A and realize, unfortunately, we could see more deaths,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, in a press release.  

“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,” said Dr. Dreyzehner.  

To help address one high-risk group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved on October 25th, 2018, the ‘recommendation for routine hepatitis A vaccination for all people experiencing homelessness.’ 

A 2017 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that more than 554,000 people in the USA were homeless on any given night.   

Tennessee’s hepatitis A outbreak is linked to a multi-state outbreak that began in 2017. 

Currently, the states of Arkansas, California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia are reporting widespread hepatitis A outbreaks.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, says the CDC.   

The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. 

However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. 

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. 

And, get vaccinated if you are at risk of contracting hepatitis A.

“We urge anyone in the high-risk groups to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said TDH’s Dr. Dreyzehner. 

The vaccine can protect you after a single dose, says the CDC. 

The single-antigen hepatitis A vaccines are: 

And the combination vaccine is: 

Most pharmacies in the USA offer hepatitis vaccines.

To request a vaccination appointment, please visit this page.

The CDC Vaccine Price List displays current HAV vaccine contract prices and general information. And, vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.

More information about hepatitis A and Tennessee’s response to this outbreak can be found here.