Hepatitis A (HAV) is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Between January 1, 2019 and May 22, 2019, Virginia reported 64 cases of HAV, a 190% increase compared to the same time period in 2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update to a Health Alert Network (HAN) advisory, reporting that since 2016 over 15,000 HAV cases have been reported in the United States. Groups at highest risk are persons who use drugs (injection or non-injection), persons experiencing homelessness, individuals who are, or were recently, incarcerated, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people with chronic liver disease. The increase in HAV cases in Virginia indicates that the Commonwealth is experiencing the effects of this nationwide outbreak.
HAV is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. It can be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill. The best way to prevent HAV is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine and by the use of standard and contact precautions.
An HAV webpage has been created on the Virginia Department of Health website with resources for you and your patients. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Division of Immunization at 804-864-8055 or your local health department. Thank you for your partnership in preventing the spread of HAV in Virginia.