Kingsport, Tennessee Confronts Hepatitis A Risk During 2019

Hepatitis A virus exposure risk reported by McAlister's Deli restaurant in Sullivan County TN
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(Precision Vaccinations)

The Sullivan County Tennessee Regional Health Department announced on April 1, 2019, that an employee of McAlister’s Deli in Kingsport, TN, has been diagnosed with acute hepatitis A while at work. 

This means anyone who dined at that restaurant between March 11 through 27, 2019, may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. 

Moreover, these patrons are encouraged to contact the Health Department regarding potential hepatitis A exposure. 

McAlister’s is just one of 25 restaurants previously reported staff worked while infectious with hepatitis A during 2018.   

The Health Department also announced that free hepatitis A vaccines would be offered at both their Kingsport and Blountville offices during the next week. 

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease of the liver. 

According to the TimeNews, the health department had already administered 1,627 hepatitis A vaccinations at its offices, as of April 3, 2019. 

Sullivan County Regional Medical Director Dr. Stephen May said to WJHL "If we could get it to those who could have potentially been exposed in two weeks then there is a 95 to 98 percent probability we can prevent that disease." 

Sullivan County is located 120 miles northeast of Knoxville, TN.   

Previously, a hepatitis A outbreak affecting the cities of Nashville and Chattanooga was announced during 2018. 

The Tennessee Department of Health reports that between December 2017 – March 29, 2019, there have been 1,114 hepatitis A cases, and 6 related fatalities. 

Tennessee is not the only state in America’s Heartland reporting hepatitis A cases.

As of April 1, 2019, the states which have reported the most cases and related deaths during the 2017-2019 outbreak are as follows:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began issuing alerts regarding hep A outbreaks in 2017. Since then: 

  • The CDC adopted a recommendation in 2018, that all persons experiencing homelessness, and older than 1 year of age, should be routinely immunized against hep A
  • Hep A vaccination should be administered to infants aged 6–11 months when traveling outside the USA when protection against the hep A virus is recommended.
  • Food service staff are recommended to receive preventive hep A vaccination in Kentucky.

The Hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited liver disease that does not result in chronic infection, says the CDC.

The CDC says there are 3 hepatitis A vaccines available in the USA, Vaqta, Havrix, and, Twinrix.

Hep A vaccines are available at pharmacies in most states. 

The CDC Vaccine Price List displays current hepatitis vaccine contract prices and general information. And, hepatitis 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.