Taking Immunizations to the Streets To Stop Hepatitis A
SALT LAKE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Salt Lake County recognized that its most at-risk population was also the least likely to seek medical attention, so the health department developed mobile immunization teams to bring the hepatitis A vaccine to them.
August 27, 2019
Starting in late 2016, communities across the United States began reporting a surge in cases of hepatitis A—with more than 22,000 cases reported nationwide by July 2019. While parts of the country continue to battle this outbreak, Utah declared its outbreak overexternal icon in February 2019 (after nearly 300 casesexternal icon), thanks in part to innovative approaches used by the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD). About 200 of Utah’s cases occurred in that county, and most of those cases were among persons who were experiencing homelessness or using illicit drugs, making it more challenging to provide treatment.
SLCoHD used a variety of inventive methods to reach the sources of infection in the region and stop the outbreak—
- Partnered with a local nonprofit syringe exchange program that was trusted by the drug community
- Developed mobile immunization teams (e.g., on foot, using backpacks)
- Immunized people at area homeless shelters
- Partnered with local hospitals to create a protocol outlining how to discharge a contagious homeless person from hospital care
- Sent food inspectors to restaurants and convenience stores where bathroom facilities were close to known homeless encampments to teach them how to sanitize against the virus
For its exemplary efforts, SLCoHD was recognized by NACCHOexternal icon during its 2019 annual conference as one of the “Large Health Departments of the Year.” The award honors local health departments that had “outstanding achievements in demonstrating innovative ways to improve public health and safety.”
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