The Grapevine

Arizona Hepatitis A Outbreak Could Take Months To Rein In

The hepatitis A outbreak in Arizona is becoming a major problem as more cases continue to be reported most especially in the Tucson and metro Phoenix areas. Health officials are doing their best to combat the health issue, but the outbreak could take months to rein in.

Last week, more than 100 new cases were confirmed in the state, bringing the total cases to 1,259 as of May 4. The figure already indicates a significant statewide outbreak and the documented cases this year have already surpassed the total number reported last year, according to Sun-Sentinel.

Based on the reports released by health officials, the hepatitis A outbreak mostly affects three types of people: the homeless, those with precarious housing situations and those who use illegal drugs. Arizona health officials said the cases are expected to rise and this means more people would be hospitalized due to the infection.

The silver lining is the fact that there are no recorded deaths from the disease. This is mostly because hepatitis A is a self-limiting disease that does not really lead to chronic infection. Nevertheless, officials want to control the outbreak by administering vaccines in at-risk populations.

Homeless people are very vulnerable to hepatitis A since the infection spreads via the fecal-oral route or the consumption of contaminated food or water. Since the homeless do not have access to good hygiene, the food and water they consume and share with each other could be contaminated, making the spread of the infection inevitable.

In Maricopa County, a health official noted that people who have recently been behind bars were found to have contracted the infection. Those who took illicit drugs were also affected alongside the homeless people in the area. More than 90 percent of the cases in the county required hospitalization, Fox News has learned.

Hepatitis is a communicable disease of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. An infected liver becomes swollen and this results to multiple complications including jaundice, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, joint pain and fatigue. A two-dose vaccine administered six months apart is effective against the disease.

Aside from vaccination, health officials in Arizona are also urging people to practice good hand washing since this could help curb contamination. After all, the hepatitis A virus is usually spread when a person with hepatitis A virus touches a surface, food or drink without properly washing his or her hands after being exposed to fecal matter.