Health Department declares an end to Hepatitis A outbreak in Utah

Posted at 8:41 AM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 10:41:07-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Public health officials have declared an end to a Hepatitis A outbreak in Utah after nearly two years, nearly 300 infected patients, and three fatalities.

The Utah Department of Health stated the outbreak is over Wednesday. No new cases have been reported in the last 100 days, which is two incubation cycles for Hepatitis A.

The outbreak began on May 8 of 2017, and the last reported case was on October 26 of 2018. The outbreak included potential exposures to customers at a 7-Eleven in West Jordan. 

“The majority of Utah’s outbreak-associated cases occurred in people who live along the Wasatch Front and reported illicit substance use and/or were experiencing homelessness,” said Bree Barbeau, an epidemiologist with UDOH.

All told, there were 281 people infected and three people killed.

While officials expect to receive more cases associated with the outbreak, their focus will now be on monitoring cases and prevention activities. They plan to continue spreading vaccination efforts to high-risk populations.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. Symptoms generally appear between two and six weeks after exposure and can include the following:

• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
• Fatigue
• Nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
• Clay-colored stools
• Loss of appetite
• Low-grade fever

The disease is generally spread through close contact or when food or drink is prepared by an infected person. A vaccine has been a routine part of childhood immunizations in Utah since 2002, the press release states.

Dr. Dagmar Vitek, Salt Lake County Health Department medical director, encouraged proper hygiene and vaccination.

“The vaccine is typically given in two or three doses, depending on the formulation and is nearly 100% effective at preventing illness,” Vitek said. “To reduce your risk of catching or spreading the hepatitis A virus, always wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom, before preparing or eating food, and after coming in contact with fecal material.”

More information about Hep. A is available from the health department, here.