Surge of hepatitis A outbreaks linked to opioid epidemic

More hepatitis A outbreaks are occurring in states hit hard by the opioid epidemic, reversing a long-term decline of the viral liver disease, according to The Wall Street Journal

Since 2016, more than 26,000 hepatitis A cases, including 268 deaths, have been reported in 30 states. Between 2014 and 2017, the case count jumped from 1,239 cases to 3,366, according to the CDC.

In 1996, the CDC began recommending preventive hepatitis A vaccines and, in 2006, routine immunization of children. Cases steadily declined in the 2000s, and large sustained outbreaks became rare.

Past cases were often caused by tainted food but now outbreaks are larger, driven by the national opioid epidemic. Many hepatitis A cases are concentrated in states with high opioid overdose rates, including Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.  

In August, Florida officials declared its hepatitis A outbreak a public health emergency. The outbreak represents one of the nation's largest, with more than 3,000 cases and 40 deaths confirmed since 2018. To slow the outbreak, 80 percent of high-risk populations — mainly drug users and homeless individuals — must be vaccinated, Scott Rivkees, MD, Florida Surgeon General and professor at Gainesville-based University of Florida, told The Wall Street Journal.

Hepatitis A can be cured, but many patients require hospitalization, and some cases can be fatal.  

More articles on population health:
Congressional panel asks e-cigarette companies to stop advertising
10 recent moves to better regulate sales of vaping products
Rhode Island bans vaping products, CVS applauds decision

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