logo



Updated: Deadly hepatitis A outbreak: Tennessee issues call for vaccinations

Becky Campbell • Updated Aug 20, 2019 at 8:24 PM

More than half of the 13 hepatitis A deaths reported by state health officials occurred in the grand East Tennessee division, but none resulted from the recent potential exposure to hundreds at a Johnson City restaurant.

Tennessee Department of Health spokesman Bill Christian said the agency can only confirm the hepatitis A deaths by grand division; Seven were reported in East Tennessee, five in Middle Tennessee and one in West Tennessee.

“The Tennessee Department of Health has identified an increase in hepatitis A cases across the state, many of which are tied to a large multi-state outbreak that began in early 2017,” Christian said. “We have had no awareness of cases coming out of restaurant exposures in Tennessee, including the one resulting in the mass vaccination event July 31 through Aug. 1.”

Total Confirmed Cases of Hepatitis A in Tennessee (Dec. 1, 2017-Aug. 16, 2019)

2,257 cases

1,350 (61%) hospitalizations

13 deaths — This count includes all deaths among hepatitis A cases since December 2017, whether or not the death was directly attributable to hepatitis A.

Of the 2,257 cases, 180 were reported in Northeast Tennessee.

Last month, health officials were notified that an employee of McDonald’s on West Market Street was diagnosed with acute hepatitis A, with hundreds of customers potentially exposed to the disease. As a result, the health department urged anyone who ate at that location on July 24 to get the vaccination.

The department offered the hepatitis A vaccination free and gave 688 shots, plus walk-in vaccines during the following week for a total of 830 vaccines, officials said.

‘’The deaths in Tennessee associated with the hepatitis A outbreak are extremely sad,’’ said TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. ‘’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 Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee Immunization Program medical director. “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. Your health care provider or the local health department for more information on preventing hepatitis A.

Officials said the mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.

 

 

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED:

The Tennessee Department of Health and numerous state and local partners continue to investigate and respond to a large, multi-state hepatitis A outbreak. More than 2,000 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed in Tennessee, including 13 resulting in the deaths of the patients.

‘’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.

Learn more about Tennessee’s response to this outbreak at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/tennessee-hepatitis-a-outbreak.html.

Johnson City Press Videos