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US sees 300% increase in the number of cases of Hepatitis A

Published on 13/05/19 at 11:16am

The number of Americans infected with Hepatitis A has increased 300% in the past three years, according to figures from the CDC.

The living conditions of homeless people have been pointed to as responsible for the spike in new cases.

Hepatitis A, which can linger in faeces, can be spread by hand to mouth transmission. While in the past many cases were linked to infected food, recent cases have been linked to the unsanitary living conditions of homeless people and drug addicts.

“In the previous decade, large outbreaks of hepatitis A were rare and mostly attributed to contaminated commercial food products,” lead researcher Dr Monique Foster, an epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis, said.

However Foster argued current outbreak is “more an issue of sanitation, public safety and cultural problems than it is one of public awareness.”

As such, prevention should be focused on addressing the social problems that have created the perfect storm in which the virus has spread. Notably the increase has come despite the ready availability of an effective vaccine.

Dr Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, commented: “This is really not a hepatitis A problem, and it's not solvable by giving everybody a vaccine. We have to realize it's a public health issue and it's a matter of cleaning up places where the virus breeds.”

“Transience, economic instability and limited access to health care among the affected populations have made the outbreaks more difficult for states to control,” Foster added.

Louis Goss

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