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August 19, 2019

Pennsylvania funding vaccines to prevent spread of hepatitis A amid outbreak

Philadelphia, Bucks County particularly hit hard

Prevention Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A outbreak in United States PA Images/PA Images

A vaccination syringe is pictured above. Hepatitis A infections have increased in the United States during the last three years despite an effective vaccine being available.

Amid a hepatitis A outbreak, Pennsylvania is dedicating $50,000 of state funding to provide vaccines and increase outreach efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Monday.

The state has had 376 confirmed hepatitis A cases since January 2018, resulting in more than 300 hospitalizations and seven deaths. The 2019 total is nearly nine times higher than usual.

The majority of the cases have come from Philadelphia and Bucks County. Philadelphia, which has had more than 70 cases, declared a public health emergency earlier this month.

Pennsylvania declared an outbreak back in May. Twenty-eight other states, including New Jersey, are also experiencing outbreaks.

"We must do everything in our power to prevent hepatitis A from further spreading across the commonwealth," Wolf said in a statement. "This funding will help us provide vaccines and outreach to the communities hardest hit by this outbreak."

State health officials also are seeking federal funds to purchase additional vaccines and provide additional outreach efforts.

A liver infection, hepatitis A spreads when an infected person does not properly wash their hands after using the bathroom and then handles food. Symptoms typically occur two to six weeks later and include diarrhea, jaundice, stomach pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

The virus can be prevented via vaccine, but it cannot be treated with medication. Most people get better at home, but some can require hospitalization. Anyone with symptoms is urged to contact their doctor immediately.

Health officials also encourage people to wash their hands regularly, particularly before preparing food or after using the bathroom or changing diapers.


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