BOSTON – The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced an increase in reported hepatitis A cases locally acquired in Boston since April 2018. The announcement comes as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced 65 total cases reported statewide, 30 of which were reported in Boston.
The majority of cases have occurred in persons who are experiencing homelessness and/or people with substance use disorder. The current increase of cases in Boston is not linked to infected persons who have traveled outside of Boston or contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease. BPHC recommends that at-risk populations get vaccinated as well as anyone who may come in direct contact with at-risk populations. Persons who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A and have been exposed to hepatitis A are encouraged to get an immune globulin shot to prevent infection.
Hepatitis A, a highly contagious disease, is commonly transmitted person-to-person through unknowing contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by stool from an infected person. Anyone can get hepatitis A. Traditionally, certain people are at higher-risk of contracting hepatitis A, including:
• persons experiencing homelessness,
• persons who use substances (injection and non-injection),
• men having sex with men, and
• people who travel to countries where there is a hepatitis A outbreak.
Among older children and adults, infection is typically symptomatic with abrupt onset of fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and a yellowing of the eyes. Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness usually lasting less than 2 months, to severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people.
Intensive efforts are underway to prevent the spread of hepatitis A in Boston. BPHC is working with clinical and community partners to actively offer vaccinations and guidance for improving sanitation.
“Vaccination and good hygiene, especially washing hands with soap & warm water, are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A. We are working with partners to directly reach at-risk populations and provide vaccinations, to reduce the spread of hepatitis A,” said Dr. Jenifer Jaeger, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau, BPHC.
Boston residents who have questions or concerns about hepatitis A are encouraged to contact their health care provider or the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050. For more information, please visit bphc.org.