Department of Health reports hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – The state of Pennsylvania has declared an outbreak of hepatitis A. The liver infection has been on the rise for more than a year now.

“Today, the Department of Health officially joins 22 other states in declaring an outbreak of hepatitis A,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

Since January of last year, Pennsylvania has seen 171 cases of hepatitis A in 36 counties — more than 60 of those cases were just this year.

“That is double that of last year at the same point in time,” Levine said.

By declaring an outbreak, Pennsylvania is eligible for federal funds to buy additional vaccines if needed. Levine says the vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the illness.

“The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and it is effective,” she said.

“The Department of Health is working with our 10 county and municipal health departments to make sure they have appropriate information and vaccines,” said Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for Health Preparedness and Community Protection.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and jaundice.

It is spread through close contact, like caring for someone or through sex.

The exact cause of the increase of hepatitis A is still being looked at, but it comes as Pennsylvania has also seen an increase of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, which result from the opioid crisis.

People who think they have been exposed to hepatitis A are urged to contact their doctor.

If you are not insured or underinsured, call 1-877-PA-HEALTH to find the nearest state health center for testing.

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