A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report examined a 2018 outbreak of Hepatitis A in West Virginia associated with drug use and homelessness.
Between January 1 and August 28, 2018, the Kanawha Charleston Health Department identified 664 cases of Hepatitis A. In August of 2018, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health requested assistance from the CDC to deal with the outbreak. According to the report, the majority of patients testing positive for the disease reported current or past illicit drug use.
Hepatitis A, which is spread by a fecal-oral route, is vaccine preventable. After requesting assistance from the CDC, health officials began a statewide vaccination effort to control the outbreak, targeting homeless shelters, meal centers, jails and harm reduction centers. Kanawha County’s harm reduction program closed in March of 2018, prior to the request for help from the CDC.
As of February 2019, the CDC reports that the statewide outbreak is still ongoing, with 74 new cases of Hepatitis A in January, but only a handful of those were in Kanawha County.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.