Hepatitis A Outbreak Declared In Pennsylvania

State officials say the number of cases has doubled in 2019

Shelby Cassesse
May 20, 2019 - 2:16 pm

© Nikki Boliaux

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - State health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania on Monday, saying they've seen an increase in cases across the state.

The most recent state data says there have been over 60 cases in 2019, double the cases of the same timeframe in 2018. Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties have seen the largest increases. 

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine highlighted the importance of the hepatitis A vaccine during a Monday press conference.

"The absolute best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is through vaccination," she said. "The hepatitis A vaccine is safe, and it is effective."

The hepatitis A vaccine is included in the state's childhood vaccination series and is recommended for children between 12 and 23 months old, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. 

 In addition to declaring an outbreak on Monday, state officials outlined additional efforts to prevent and treat the disease.

Ray Barishansky, the Health Department's Deputy Secretary for Health Planning and Assessment says officials are working to provide vaccinations across the state and increase outreach efforts.

"In regard to that, our focus is on target groups, as well as individuals with close contact to known cases."

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will also pilot delivery of hepatitis A vaccines by Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver typically caused by direct contact with someone carrying the disease through instances like sharing food, sexual contact or illicit injected drugs. The disease can cause liver failure and joint pain, as well as kidney, pancreatic, and blood disorders. Symptoms include fever, stomach pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, vomiting, jaundice and dark urine.