Hepatitis A Outbreak Response: CDC Encourages Partnering with Harm Reduction Programs

As you may be aware, multiple states across the country have reported outbreaks of person-to-person transmitted hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections, primarily among people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness. Since 2016, more than 15,000 cases and 8,500 (57%) hospitalizations have been reported. Hospitalization rates have been higher than typically associated with HAV infection. Severe complications have also been reported, sometimes leading to liver transplantation or death. At least 140 deaths have occurred nationwide.

HAV is highly transmissible from person to person. The best way to prevent HAV infection is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Syringe services programs (SSPs) provide an important opportunity to engage at-risk individuals when they access those services. Harm reduction organizations are critical partners in responding to these outbreaks, because these programs can assist local public health authorities in reaching vulnerable populations affected by this outbreak and building rapport. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also encouraged SSPs to reach out to local health departments to coordinate and conduct vaccination events or explore opportunities to do so. We hope you will consider partnering with harm reduction organizations in your community to ensure the highest risk people get vaccinated.

If you have any questions, please reach out to CDC at dvhpolicy@cdc.gov.

  • For additional information about the outbreak, including key practices and recommendations for health departments, please see the recently released CDC update to the Health Alert Network (HAN) (https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00412.asp).
  • To support efforts to address hepatitis A, CDC has developed fact sheets and posters to encourage people to get vaccinated.  The materials contain an area in which local information can be added and are available at www.cdc.gov/HepAOutbreak.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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