July 29, 2019
City officials have issued a health alert following an uptick in hepatitis A cases in Philadelphia.
According to a report released by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Disease Control earlier this month, increases in hepatitis A virus (HAV) among drug users, especially homeless drug users, is occurring at a rapid rate in Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties.
A total of 91 cases of HAV have been confirmed in Philadelphia so far in 2019 - 73 of those cases have arisen since May. Many of the cases have been tied to the Kensington streets hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.
Billy Penn notes that Philadelphia’s annual HAV case count typically hovers around 30 — a number that has more than tripled in the past two consecutive years.
Hepatitis A is a virus resulting in the disease of the liver and typically is spread through unprotected sex, sharing needles, consuming contaminated food, or germs from human fecal matter, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes. Symptoms, which usually clear up in about two months following the infection, include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. According to the CDC, vaccines are the best way to prevent HAV infection.
While human waste is not unheard of in city streets, it is all too common in the blocks surrounding Kensington Avenue, Billy Penn reports, raising a public health concern for the area’s residents in light of this fecally-spread disease.
While some cities with similar HAV concerns have taken on more serious sanitation efforts, an emphasis on vaccines is the route Philadelphia is currently taking. Those with health insurance can obtain the disease-preventing vaccine from their doctor, or the health department is holding a free vaccine pop-up at McPherson Square in Kensington on Tuesdays and Thursdays between July 30 and August 8 as an effort the combat the illness locally, per Billy Penn.