Public health officials in Arizona have reported a continued increase in the number of hepatitis A cases since November last year.
While the infectious disease has been detected all over the state, most of the cases have been recorded in Tucson and in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Among those most at risk of infection are homeless people and those living in makeshift houses. Individuals who use illegal drugs have also been shown to be vulnerable to the disease.
Hepatitis A In Arizona
As many as 212 hepatitis A cases have been confirmed in Arizona since the start of 2019. The number is higher than any statewide total recorded over the past 10 years, based on state statistics. However, public health officials are concerned that infection cases might continue to rise.
Homeless people are said to be the most susceptible to the infection. The disease can easily spread among those with poor hygiene and those who do not wash their hands properly after using the restroom.
Paula Mandel, deputy director of the Pima County Health Department, said majority of the hepatitis A cases in the state have been detected in the Tucson area.
Meanwhile, in Phoenix, health workers are already working to administer vaccines for the disease, especially to those who are most at risk, according to Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, director for disease control at Maricopa County's Public Health Department.
Sunenshine pointed out that as much as 90 percent of infected cases in their county have resulted in hospitalization for victims.
She said among the people who have contracted hepatitis A in Maricopa County are those who have recently been jailed, those who do not have permanent homes, and those who have been using illicit drugs.
Health providers are giving out vaccines in two separate doses, which are administered six months apart.
Booster shots for hepatitis A have been available since the 1990s. In fact, the vaccine is part of the recommended inoculation plan for children.
In Maricopa County, preschool-aged children are required to be vaccinated against the infectious disease. However, this does not include those who are already in grades K-12.
What Is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a communicable disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is known to target mostly the liver of infected people.
The illness is often transmitted from person-to-person through consumption of food or water contaminated with HAV.
While hepatitis A is considered an infectious disease, it is self-limited and does not trigger chronic infection in patients.
Symptoms of HAV infection in adults include the following:
- Low appetite
- Stomach pain
Adults infected with hepatitis A develop symptoms of the disease, but these mostly go away within two months. However, most children below 6 years old do not experience any symptoms of the infection, or are left with unrecognized illness.
People who have contracted the infection previously often have a stronger resistance to reinfection. This is due to the fact that the antibodies produced in response to hepatitis A last for the entirety of a person's life.
However, health experts still advise people to get vaccinated since it is still the best option to prevent infection.