Massachusetts Health Officials Sound Alarm as Hepatitis A Cases Surge, Echoing 2018 Outbreak Pattern


Health officials in Massachusetts are saying that there is an outbreak of hepatitis A in the state. This outbreak looks a lot like one that happened a few years ago.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) told ABC News on Tuesday that there have been ten proven cases since September 1. More than half of those cases have happened since November 1.

The department said that seven of the cases were so bad that they needed to be hospitalized. But there have been no reports of deaths.

The MDPH said the patients are mostly 46 years old but range in age from 35 to 60. The MDPH says that seven of the patients are men and three are women. Eight of the patients are white and two are Hispanic.

According to a message sent out by the MDPH on Monday, some of the patients said they had recently been homeless or had uncertain housing. They also said they had used drugs or injections in the past. The department also said that many of these patients had gone to clinics, shelters, and drug rehab centers in the Boston area to get help.

The MDPH said that the patients have never been outside of Massachusetts and that they do not get their food, drinks, or drugs from the same places.

The MDPH said the group of cases is like a hepatitis outbreak that happened in Massachusetts from April 2018 to May 2020 and had 563 cases and nine deaths. The department said that most of the people who were affected by that outbreak were homeless, lived in unstable housing, or had a substance use problem.

A spokesperson for the MDPH told ABC News, “There are similarities in risk factors between the cases reported here and those reported during the 2018–2020 outbreak of hepatitis A in Massachusetts.” “These cases report being homeless and/or using drugs, including injecting drugs, in the past few months.” Hepatitis A infections are more likely to happen to people whose housing is uncertain or who are homeless.

The department also says that there were big groups of people with hepatitis A in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia during that time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that hepatitis A is a very contagious liver illness that is caused by the hepatitis A virus.

The virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. The CDC says it can be spread by close contact with an infected person or by eating or drinking something that is contaminated, even in very small amounts.

This one is different from the other hepatitis viruses we know of because it is spread through feces and mouth,” Dr. Shira Doron, head infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, told ABC News. “So, it’s not transmitted through blood and other body fluids like hepatitis C, for example.”

It’s often a result of situations where they may be poor sanitation, overcrowding, poor bathroom facilities, things like that,” she said. “It’s not entirely surprising that we’re seeing another outbreak in a similar way to the last time we had this in Massachusetts, and it’s affecting people who are homeless or have unstable housing because they experience risk factors of the virus.

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