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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermont Health Department Declares Hepatitis A Outbreak

The exterior of the Vermont Department of Health office in Burlington at 108 Cherry Street.
Taylor Dobbs
/
VPR File
The Vermont Health Department has announced the state is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A.

Vermont has declared an outbreak of hepatitis A. The state's Health Department saw 12 cases of hepatitis A last year, compared to an average of three cases per year during the previous five years.

"That's clearly four times the amount we would normally expect to see, so it deserves the label 'outbreak,'" said Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine.

Levine told VPR that most cases are in the southern part of Vermont. He said 30 other states have also declared hepatitis outbreaks, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Cases of the disease have been particularly acute in this outbreak, Levine said, both in Vermont and around the country.

"People seem to be getting sicker and requiring hospitalization at a fairly high rate," Levine said.

According to the Vermont Health Department, more than half of Vermont's hepatitis A cases in 2019 required hospitalization.

Populations most at risk of contracting the disease include those experiencing homelessness, people with a history of drug use and people who are incarcerated — but, there is a vaccine is available.

"Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease," Levine explained, "and unlike many vaccines, the hepatitis A vaccine really, after one shot, you can have up to 95% protection."

More from the Vermont Health Department — Information about hepatitis A

Levine said his department is providing the vaccine in its district offices to those without insurance, and the department is also working with homeless shelters and correctional facilities to get Vermonters vaccinated. Levine noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children get vaccinated for hepatitis A.

The state is also seeing a spike in the number of cases of hepatitis B, with nine cases in Vermont reported in 2019 — up from an average of about three per year over the previous five years, according to the Health Department.

Hepatitis B is spread through exposure to infected blood, and the Health Department encourages Vermonters to get vaccinated by their health care provider or at one of the state's health offices.

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