YAKIMA, WA - As of November 21, 2019 the Yakima Health District has confirmed a total of 11 cases of hepatitis A in Yakima County. The Yakima Health District’s investigation found that all cases reside within the homeless and/or the illicit drug user population.
Health District staff has been working diligently with partners to respond to this outbreak since it was declared on November 7, 2019. Vaccination of susceptible individuals has been shown to successfully control outbreaks of hepatitis A. Health District staff, in partnership with Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Yakima County Jail, and Indian Health Services successfully vaccinated 74 individuals. In addition to vaccinating those most at-risk for infection, Health District staff have been in-close communication with medical providers to ensure expedited investigation and vaccination of suspected cases. In addition, Health District staff have been reaching out to organizations that serve homeless and drug using communities to provide education on actions they can take to prevent exposure to hepatitis A and symptoms to watch out for.
“We are grateful to our partners for stepping up to help in this outbreak response,” said Melissa Sixberry RN, Director of Disease Control at the Yakima Health District. “We would not be able to respond as successfully as we have without the help of our partners.”
Hepatitis A is a vaccine preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from touching objects or consuming food contaminated with stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also be spread from close, personal contact with an infected person. After someone has been exposed to hepatitis A, symptoms may begin to develop two to six weeks after infection. Symptoms include yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), dark urine and/or pale stools, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting and abdominal pain. Anyone with symptoms consistent with hepatitis A should week medical attention.
On July 30th, 2019, The Washington State Department of Health announced a multi-countyHepatitis A (HAV) outbreak. Through genetic testing, it was found that the Yakima Countyhepatitis A strain that is being observed is related to the hepatitis A outbreak in Spokane. Multiple states across the country have also reported outbreaks of HAV, primarily among persons experiencing homelessness and persons who use illicit drugs.
For more information on hepatitis A: