CDC issues advisory on Hep A outbreaks in multiple states

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent an advisory Monday alerting local public health agencies to a multiple-state Hepatitis A outbreak that has hit homeless populations and those who use drugs particularly hard.

Hepatitis A is a type of viral liver infection that causes inflammation and can range in effect from making someone feel ill for several weeks to death in some individuals, though it does not usually lead to lasting liver damage, according to the CDC. Between January 2017 and April 2018, the CDC received more than 2,500 reports of Hepatitis A infections associated with person-to-person transmission, according to Monday’s advisory. Of the 1,900 cases where the CDC was able to determine risk factors for infection, 1,300 — or 68 percent — were experiencing homelessness or were drug users.

Homeless populations and those who use drugs can be particularly vulnerable to contracting Hepatitis A for a number of reasons, including economic instability, limited access to health care, lack of sterile injection equipment and distrust of public officials. Outbreaks of Hepatitis A infections among homeless populations have occurred in other countries, but large outbreaks among the homeless have not been reported previously in the U.S., according to the advisory.

The Kenai Department of Public Health distributed the alert to doctors offices and other health care providers, Leslie Felts, nurse manager with the Alaska Division of Public Health in Kenai, said.

Health care providers who see symptoms of Hepatitis A — jaundice, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, joint pain or dark urine — should perform a blood test to confirm a Hepatitis A infection, Felts said.

Hepatitis A is contracted through the ingestion of fecal matter from an infected person, and transmitted by hand-to-mouth contact. The best way to prevent infection is to wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers or coming into contact with any kind of fecal material.

“It’s a very simple prevention, but very effective,” Felts said.

Alaska, which has not yet experienced an outbreak, has seen reports of Hepatitis A cases decrease significantly in the last four decades, as new vaccine recommendations and requirements have gone into effect.

Between 1973 and 2016, the Alaska Section of Epidemiology received 6,488 Hepatitis A case reports, according to a June 1, 2017 State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin. The majority of those cases took place before 1996, however, at an average rate of 74.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Between 1996 and 2001 — when Hepatitis A vaccine became part of the recommended childhood vaccination schedule — 4.4 cases per 100,000 people were reported. Hepatitis A rates per 100,000 people dropped to 0.6 cases per year for the period between 2002 and 2016, when the vaccine became a requirement of school and daycare enrollment.

Erin Thompson can be reached at

More in News

Stickers are available for voters at the Kenai No. 1 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to hold ‘I Voted’ sticker design contest

City council members approved the program during their Wednesday night meeting

Bill seeking to bump use of Alaska Performance Scholarship clears the House with unanimous support

The money is awarded to high-performing high school graduates to help pay for postsecondary education at participating institutions in Alaska

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

Most Read