New Report Shows Sharp Decline in U.S. Hepatitis A Cases

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday December 9, 2014

A new report shows there has been a sharp decline in hepatitis A cases throughout the United States. An analysis of federal data found that hospitalization rates have fallen from 7.2 to 2.9 patients per million patients admitted to hospitals from 2002 to 2011.

Hepatitis A cases have fallen by almost 90 percent over the past 20 years marking this increased decline as another major step forward in the fight against the potentially deadly liver disease. Vaccines like Twinrix, which protect against both Hepatitis A and B, can make a big difference.

"Hepatitis A vaccination is very important for everyone, especially travelers to high risk countries," said Melanie Kohr, Vice-President of Clinic Operations for Passport Health. "Travel trends are on the rise, and if more people are vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease, then the likelihood of spreading it when a traveler returns greatly declines. This can play a critical role in national health in the long term and for the health of close family members no matter the situation."

Hepatitis A is an acute liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), lasting from a few weeks to several months. It does not lead to chronic infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is transmitted by the ingestion of contaminated food, fecal matter or close person-to-person contact. The CDC estimates that more than 2,000 new cases happen every year and suggests vaccination for all children starting at age 1 year as well as travelers to certain high-risk countries.

The study did not state whether this decline was due to increased precautions in restaurants and other public places (where hepatitis A is commonly contracted), or due to the over 70 percent vaccination rate among children, but both likely played a factor. Another key indicator that may have played a role in the decline of hepatitis A cases is the increased vaccination rates among travelers to countries where the disease remains endemic.

Before traveling, ask your healthcare provider about appropriate vaccinations. During traveling, practice good hygiene, frequent handwashing and safe sex. Drink only purified or bottled water, including ice cubes. Get your food well-done, and avoid 'street meet,' raw shellfish and salads, and pre-peeled fruits or vegetables. If you have been sick while abroad, see your healthcare provider right away upon your return.

Passport Health is the largest and leading provider of travel medicine and vaccination services in the North America. With over 230 clinic locations, 20+ years of experience, a commitment to first class medical care and rigorously trained medical staff, Passport Health sets the immunization industry standard. Passport Health's core services have grown from travel medicine to include on-site flu clinics, specialty physical exams, routine immunizations and vaccination records management solutions for public and private sector clients of all sizes.

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.