Widespread outbreaks of hepatitis A across the United States

Since March 2017, CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) has been assisting multiple state and local health departments with hepatitis A outbreaks, spread through person-to-person contact.  Since the hepatitis A outbreaks were first identified in 2016, more than 17,000 cases reported and at least 170 deaths as a result of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection have been reported.

The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent HAV infection

  • The following groups are at highest risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing serious complications from HAV infection in these outbreaks and should be offered the hepatitis A vaccine in order to prevent or control an outbreak:
    • People who use drugs (injection or non-injection)
    • People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness
    • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
    • People who are currently or were recently incarcerated
    • People with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C
  • One dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to control outbreaks of hepatitis A and provides up to 95% seroprotection in healthy individuals for up to 11 years.1,2
  • Pre-vaccination serologic testing is not required to administer hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccinations should not be postponed if vaccination history cannot be obtained or records are unavailable.

CDC has provided outbreak-specific considerations for hepatitis A vaccine administration.

CDC’s Response

In response to all hepatitis outbreaks, CDC provides ongoing epidemiology and laboratory support as well as support on vaccine supply and vaccine policy development. When requested, CDC sends “disease detectives” to affected areas to evaluate and assist in an outbreak response. CDC alerts other public health jurisdictions of any increases in disease. All jurisdictions are encouraged to be watchful for increases in hepatitis A cases. CDC also works with state and local health officials to ensure hepatitis A vaccine is targeted to the correct at-risk populations and that supply is adequate.

Postexposure Prophylaxis

Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to hepatitis A virus (HAV) in the last 2 weeks; those with evidence of previous vaccination do not require PEP.

PEP consists of:

PEP Recommendations:

NOTE: CDC recommends that all children be vaccinated against hepatitis A at age 1 year. Parents or caregivers who are unsure if a child has been vaccinated should consult the child’s health-care provider to confirm vaccination status.

HAV Specimen Requests

State health departments wanting to submit specimens must contact CDC at hepaoutbreaklab@cdc.gov for approval before shipping specimens to CDC.  Only specimens that that have tested positive for anti-hepatitis A IgM and meet any of the following criteria will be considered.

  • Specimen from a case patient in a county that has not yet reported a hepatitis A case in an at-risk population;
  • Specimen from a case patient who doesn’t report any known risk factors or contact with at-risk populations (e.g., household or sexual contact, volunteering at a homeless shelter);
  • Specimen from a case patient suspected to be associated with foodborne transmission;
  • Archived/stored specimen from a patient who has died, and whose classification as an outbreak-related death requires nucleic acid testing beyond anti-HAV IgM-positivity; or
  • Other patient specimens not meeting the above criteria that require nucleic acid testing or molecular characterization (to be discussed on a case-by-case basis).

Dear Colleague Letter pdf icon[PDF – 6 MB] from CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis Director regarding Submission of Patient Specimens to CDC for Hepatitis A Testing.

Educational Resources

CDC is developing educational materials to support the outbreak at the state and local levels. Most materials include an area where local information can be inserted. Your organization’s contact information can be typed into the blue colored rectangle. To upload your logo, click on the white space below the blue colored rectangle. In the pop-up box, select browse and upload a PDF version of your logo.

Fact Sheets

Pocket Cards

  • Outbreak of hepatitis A Pocket Card pdf icon[PDF – 786 KB] to localize with organization information and outlines who should get vaccinated and the symptoms of hepatitis A
    • Printing Instructions: These cards should be printed double-sided on 4.25” x 5.5” perforated postcard templates that print four double-sided cards per page. The print settings must be set to “Actual size” or “Custom Scale 100%” to ensure accurate alignment of the two sides of the cards.
  • Get Vaccinated Pocket Card pdf icon[PDF – 455 KB] to localize with information where to go to get the vaccine and who should get vaccinated
  • If You’re Sick Pocket Card pdf icon[PDF – 470 KB] to localize with information on where to go for medical care and the symptoms of hepatitis A
    • Pocket Card Printing Instructions: These cards should be printed double-sided on business card templates that print six double-sided cards per page. The print settings must be set to “Actual size” or “Custom Scale 100%” to ensure accurate alignment of the two sides of the cards.

Posters

Posters
Posters for people who use drugs encouraging hepatitis A vaccination
 Poster for people at high risk of infection encouraging hepatitis A vaccination
 Posters for people experiencing homelessness encouraging hepatitis A vaccination
 Poster for men who have sex with men (MSM) encouraging hepatitis A vaccination
Poster pdf icon[PDF – 4 MB] outlining what Emergency Departments can do to help stop the hepatitis A outbreaks
Posters on how to clean up and disinfect to help prevent spread of hepatitis A virusexternal icon from Water Quality & Health Council
FAQs
For Additional Information

If you are a state or local health department with questions about outbreak investigation, management, and/or specimens, please email DVH staff.

If you are a practicing clinician with a concern about a potential case of hepatitis A virus infection, please contact your local or state health department.

For all other inquiries, please contact CDC-INFO at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), TTY: 888-232-6348 or Email CDC-INFO

References
  1. McMahon BJ, Beller M, Williams J, Schloss M, Tanttila H, Bulkow L. A program to control an outbreak of hepatitis A in Alaska by using an inactivated hepatitis A vaccine. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1996;150(7):733-739.
  2. Ott JJ, Wiersma ST. Single-dose administration of inactivated hepatitis A vaccination in the context of hepatitis A vaccine recommendations. Int J Infect Dis 2013;17(11):e939-944.