TUCSON – Reported cases of Hepatitis A are spiking in southern Arizona. There were just five cases in 2017 in Pima County. This year, health officials have seen 22 cases.
“Right now, we’re very concerned because we’re seeing an increase in the number of cases in our homeless and our populations that use illicit drugs,” Pima County Health Deputy Director Paula Mandel said.
The infection affects the liver. It can cause yellow skin, eyes and flu-like symptoms.
“Someone is shedding the virus through their stool, and they go to the bathroom. They may not wash their hands very well so then they go out, they touch an object, they prepare the food, they share a drink,” said Mandel. “Then another person is exposed.”
Washing your hands is crucial in preventing infection. Officials said the number one line of defense is the Hepatitis A vaccine.
It’s available for adults and children over the age of one.
“We’re also trying to vaccinate that population that we feel is at high risk- the homeless and illicit drug users- by providing the vaccine to community partners and encouraging vaccinations at locations that are comfortable for those individuals,” said Mandel.