South Jersey’s Hepatitis A Outbreak Moves North
According to updated information from the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), the ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak in the Garden State has been centered in several southwest counties, located east of Philadelphia, PA.
On November 2, 2019, NJDOH reported Camden County had confirmed (140) cases associated with the current Hepatitis A outbreak, along with Gloucester (62), Mercer (49) and Burlington (39) counties.
These southern counties represent about 53 percent of the Hepatitis A cases confirmed in NJ since the outbreak began during December 2018.
Furthermore, these NJ counties are located adjacent to Pennsylvania, which previously declared a hepatitis A outbreak on May 20, 2019. Pennsylvania has reported 614 cases during the current outbreak.
And the recent NJDOH Alert indicates this Hepatitis A outbreak may soon accelerate in northern NJ.
As of November 8, 2019, the Somerset County Department of Health has already conducted 3 Hepatitis A vaccination clinics in Somerville, New Jersey.
These vaccination clinics are for individuals who may have eaten items purchased at the in-store deli department or used the restrooms at the ShopRite of Somerville, between October 13 to 30, 2019.
To be effective, the hepatitis A vaccine should be received as soon as possible, but no later than 2-weeks after eating food from this deli. For most people living n central NJ, this date would be Nov. 13, 2019.
This is not the 1st health alert in central NJ.
During October, the NJDOH issued a warning to Paterson, NJ residents when a food handler at Brother’s Produce on East Railway Avenue tested positive for the Hepatitis A disease.
And previously, the Morris County Office of Health Management confirmed 27 people contracted Hepatitis A from an infected food handler at the Mendham Golf & Tennis Club, likely between June 9 and June 30, 2019.
The recent Somerset County vaccination clinics are located about 43 miles west of New York City, which has yet to declare a Hepatitis A outbreak. NYC’s health department is working with other city agencies to help vaccinate at-risk populations, including, but not limited to the homeless.
But, during 2013, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received reports of 6 hepatitis A cases among food handlers.
As of November 4th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not reported any Hepatitis A cases in the state of New York during 2019. Since the outbreaks were first identified in 2016, 30 states have publicly reported 27,634 cases to the CDC.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by a virus. It can range from a mild infection with no symptoms lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months that can result in liver failure and death, says the NJDOH.
Immunocompromised persons – those with weakened immune systems – should talk with their healthcare provider about getting immunoglobulin or Ig instead of the vaccine.
If you believe you were exposed you should stay at home and contact your healthcare provider immediately if symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop. There is no treatment for hepatitis A once symptoms appear.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A can include; fatigue, sudden nausea, and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver), clay-colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, dark urine, and/or joint pain.
People with Hepatitis A should also avoid taking drugs that can hurt their liver, such as acetaminophen or Tylenol, says NJDOH.
Since March 2017, CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis has been assisting multiple state and local health departments with hepatitis A outbreaks, spread through person-to-person contact.
The 3 largest groups affected by the ongoing, multi-state, Hepatitis A virus outbreak are intravenous drug users, the homeless, and men who have participated in sexual intercourse with other men.
Additionally, food-service workers represent another sizable, at-risk population since their daily responsibilities include directly handling food and drink, said the CDC.
There is also an overlap between intravenous drug users and part-time food-service workers in some communities.
According to previous studies, the restaurant segment of the food-service industry has a long, sordid relationship with substance abuse and substance abuse disorders.
In 2015, a study conducted by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found the food services and hospitality industry to have the highest rates of substance use disorders of all employment sectors.
Fortunately, one national restaurant chain has just announced a significant effort that may reduce hepatitis A cases in its staff.
Starbucks is installing needle-disposal boxes in some bathrooms, as well as exploring other solutions to workers' concerns regarding improperly discarded syringes and the related health risks.
Hepatitis A vaccine news
- Taking Hepatitis A Off Restaurant Menus in 2019
- Untreated Drinking Water Is a Diminishing Hepatitis A Risk
- Florida Declares Hepatitis A Public Health Emergency
- Various Ohio Restaurants Contributed to the Hepatitis A Outbreak
Protective anti-hepatitis A virus antibody levels after a single dose of inactivated hepatitis A vaccine is considered to be up to 95 percent effective and offer protection for up to 11 years, says the CDC.
There are 3 HAV vaccines approved in the USA: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix, which are available at most pharmacies in NJ. And, immune globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A, both pre- and post-exposure.
In NJ, accessing 317 Funds as part of the Hepatitis A outbreak response is potentially available to qualifying individuals.
Section 317 of the Public Health Services Act authorizes the federal purchase of vaccines. In NJ, those priority populations are uninsured and underinsured adults for routine vaccines and any at-risk populations during an outbreak response.
Additional vaccine discounts can be found here.
Answers to frequently asked questions about hepatitis A are available at NJDOH.
The CDC says any vaccine can cause side effects, which should be reported to a healthcare provider asap.
Hepatitis A vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations.
- Accessing and Using 317 Funds for Hepatitis A Vaccination as Part of the Hepatitis A Outbreak Response
- 22 people caught Hepatitis A in outbreak at N.J. golf club, officials say
- Department of Health Declares Hepatitis A Outbreak
- CDC: Widespread person-to-person outbreaks of hepatitis A across the United States
- CDC: Outbreak-specific considerations for hepatitis A vaccine administration