Hepatitis A Vaccine Recommended For Residents in 6 Kentucky Counties

Vaqta, Havrix and Twinrix hepatitis A vaccines approved in the United States

washing hands

The hepatitis A outbreak in Kentucky has reached an unfortunate level.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) announced it is recommending the hepatitis A vaccine for everyone living in 6 counties associated with an outbreak of the illness.

The affected counties are Jefferson, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter, and Boyd.

The DPH recommends that all people in the 6 outbreak counties consult with their primary care doctor or insurance carrier regarding an in-network provider for administration of the hepatitis A vaccine.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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The hepatitis A vaccine has been routinely recommended for children in Kentucky aged 12 to 23 months since 2006, reports the DPH.

State officials also recommend catch-up immunizations to prevent hepatitis A for children aged 2 through 18 years.

Children in all public and private schools in Kentucky will need to be immunized with hepatitis A vaccine before starting school on or after July 1, 2018, unless their parents or legal guardians assert an exemption based upon religious beliefs.

“DPH recommends all children, ages 1 year through 18, receive the Hepatitis A vaccine, as well as adults who want to protect themselves from an acute hepatitis A infection,” said Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting DPH commissioner.  

“In these counties with local transmission of the hepatitis A virus, we recommend everyone is vaccinated per (Kentucky) guidelines to help stop this outbreak,” said Dr. Howard.

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Hepatitis A virus is often transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or do not have access to proper sanitation.  DPH recommends individuals wash their hands often and particularly after using the restroom or before consuming food.

As of early April 2018, 214 cases have been reported in the greater Louisville area. Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter, and Boyd counties have each reported 5 or more cases for a total of 311 cases associated with the outbreak. One death has been reported.

Kentucky’s 10-year average number of acute hepatitis A cases has been approximately 20 cases per year.

The CDC says hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection.

For people who do have contact with a person with Hepatitis A virus, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended by the CDC for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to hepatitis A virus in the previous 2 weeks.

In the USA, there are three FDA approved hepatitis A vaccines:

  • Vaqta and Havrix are approved for people ≥12 months of age in a 2-dose series
  • A combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B Twinrix vaccine is approved for people ≥18 years of age in the United States.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides current HAV vaccine contract prices and general information. Hep A vaccine discounts can be found here.

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