Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can make you very sick for weeks or even months. Hepatitis A can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death.
Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been occurring in states across the country since 2016, and they don’t appear to be slowing down.
Since May 2019, Minnesota has seen an increase of hepatitis A cases, which is now identified as an outbreak. Minnesota's outbreak-associated cases have risk factors consistent with the national outbreaks. People at high risk in the current outbreaks include people who use injection and non-injection drugs, people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, people who are currently or were recently incarcerated and men who have sex with men.
Other people who are at risk for hepatitis A are people who are traveling to areas where hepatitis A is common and people with direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is spread from person to person through contact with the feces of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly after using the bathroom. It is spread by eating or drinking, sharing syringes and drug use equipment, and having unprotected sex with people who have hepatitis A.
About four weeks after being exposed to the hepatitis A virus, a person will have symptoms such as severe tiredness, headaches, fever, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms that may appear a few days later include, dark (tea or cola-colored) urine, light-colored poop, and yellowing of the eyes or skin, also called jaundice. Symptoms can also include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you have any of the symptoms, please talk to your health care provider.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A disease is to get the hepatitis A vaccine. For the best protection, people should get two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. However, even getting one dose can provide a lot of protection as hepatitis A may continue to spread in Minnesota and other states. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for children since 2006, but many adults have not been vaccinated for hepatitis A.
A person may have some soreness in their arm after getting the vaccine, but other side effects are rare. Anyone that wants to get hepatitis A vaccine can request it. It is especially important for people who are at high risk. If you do not have health insurance, vaccine is available for free or low cost. You can find a clinic near you at www.health.state.mn.us/uuavsearch.
Along with getting vaccinated, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food to help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.