Hepatitis A outbreak reported TA, Bat Yam

69 reported cases of hepatitus A – almost 20 percent of them diagnosed in young drug-addicted and homeless men.

February 8, 2013 03:12
2 minute read.
A homeless man lies on a sidewalk

poverty homeless dirty 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The Health Ministry has reported a significant outbreak of hepatitis A, with 69 cases – almost 20 percent of them diagnosed in young drug-addicted and homeless men in south Tel Aviv and Bat Yam – compared to only seven reported cases in the previous year.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes a potentially serious liver disease and is found in the stool of people with the infection.

It is usually spread by close personal contact and sometimes by eating food or drinking water containing HAV. An infected person can easily pass the disease to others within the same household or otherwise in proximity to him.

HAV symptoms are jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine), severe stomach pains and diarrhea (especially in children).

About one in five HAV patients are hospitalized, and infected adults may be too ill to go to work for as long as a month. It can also be fatal to around three to six people per 1,000 cases. But there is a protective vaccine for HAV that is given to all children aged 12 to 23 months; anyone over one years old who is going to a country with a high or intermediate prevalence of the virus.

The main individuals that are affected are those in Central or South America, Mexico, Asia excluding Japan, Africa, and Eastern Europe; homosexuals; people who use street drugs; chronic liver-disease patients; hemophiliacs treated with clotting factor concentrates; people who work with HAV-infected primates or scientists or technicians who work with HAV in research laboratories.

The ministry said on Thursday that 66% of those diagnoses were men and 17% homeless or drug addicts (or both).

Molecular tests are being conducted to confirm unclear cases and to determine whether there is a viral strain shared by all infected. Although HAV cases are usually more common in the summer, the outbreak has continued through the winter. Last month, all the cases involved only residents of the Tel Aviv health district. Other health districts except that in Ashkelon did not report anything but sporadic cases. the ministry added.

Health officials urged that unvaccinated babies be taken for their HAV shots, and that teens up to 17 who have not received all their shots go for such protection.

They said the outbreak, as well as the discovery of additional cases that would otherwise be injected in the future, can be halted if drug users (using syringes) – especially in the area of the old and new Tel Aviv Central Bus Stations – are vaccinated.

In addition, HAV shots should be given to unvaccinated children or adolescents in communities with outbreaks of hepatitis A. The largest number of cases in any single month was reported in September, with 22 compared to three in October.

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