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Hepatitis A Infections in Western States

06/03/13
Hepatitis A Infections in Western States

OUTBREAK OF INFECTION: Up to 30 adults have fallen ill from Hepatitis A in western states after eating a frozen berry mix labeled Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend. Hepatitis A causes serious liver disease and can be prevented with immunizations. According to infectious disease expert, Dr. John C. Chunn, universal immunization for Hepatitis A was initiated in Oregon in 2006 and has significantly decreased number of children contracting the illness. Only 5 cases of Hep A were reported in Oregon in 2011 compared to approximately 3000 annually, prior to 2006.

MOST CHILDREN ARE IMMUNE: Dr. Kim Wollmuth, Medical Director at COPA, reminds parents that children who have followed the AAP’s recommended vaccine schedule have already completed the Hepatitis A, 2-shot series at their 2-year old well-child check, protecting them from the illness. If parents have chosen an alternative schedule or if the child has fallen behind on their shots, they should contact their doctor to bring them up-to-date on vaccinations that will protect the child from future exposure. 

WHAT TO DO: Of course, if a child has symptoms of Hepatitis A, has been exposed to the frozen berries in question, or been exposed to a person with hepatitis, the parent should contact their doctor and the Health Department immediately. If your child has been directly exposed, here are the guidelines to follow:

  • Less than one year of age:  Contact health department as the child will need the immunoglobulin injection. 
  • Over one year of age and following COPA Recommended ImmunizationsThe child will have over 90% immunity after the first dose. The second dose can be given if 6 months have passed from the first dose.
  • Over one year of age and not immunized:  COPA families can make a Nurse Appointment at COPA as quickly as possible to get the Hepatitis A immunization.  The immunization will be most beneficial if it can be done within the first two weeks of exposure but it can be given up to one month from exposure.  Non-COPA patients can go to the health department or make an appointment with a physician at COPA.
This recent outbreak is a continual reminder of the need for parents to stay vigilant with current vaccination schedules in order to protect their children from exposure to dangerous infections like hepatitis.
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