TDH: 2,000 infected, 13 dead in Tenn. from hepatitis A outbreak, vaccinations urged

(Photo: SBG file)

An updated news release from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) says 2,000 Tennesseans have now been infected with virus that causes hepatitis A since the outbreak began last year. It says 13 people in the state have died from the illness, and urges those most at risk to get vaccinated to prevent future infections and deaths.

The outbreak has reached other states as well, including Alabama and Georgia. Workers at several restaurants in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area were diagnosed, and customers were urged to take steps to prevent getting the virus.

"’The deaths in Tennessee associated with the hepatitis A outbreak are extremely sad,’’ said TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. ‘’The Tennessee Department of Health, metro health departments, jails and many other community partners are working every day to ensure people at high risk of infection with the hep A virus are vaccinated to prevent more illness and save lives."

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus. It can be transmitted through contact with feces or consumption of contaminated food or water. The groups most at risk for hepatitis A in the current outbreak include people who use recreational drugs, men who have sex with men and people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s critical for people in these high-risk groups to receive the hepatitis A vaccine to protect themselves and others around them,” said Tennessee Immunization Program Medical Director Michelle Fiscus, MD, FAAP. “We know this vaccine is safe and effective.”

Other steps to prevent infection with hepatitis A include washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating and before preparing or serving food.

Local health departments are offering free hepatitis A vaccine for people in high-risk groups.

Contact your health care provider or the local health department for more information on preventing hepatitis A.

You can contact the Hamilton County Health Department here, or call them at 423-209-8000.

Learn more about Tennessee’s response to this outbreak here.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

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