Between April 2018 to Dec. 3, 2020, there has been a 63.5 percent increase in hepatitis A infections in North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
Deaths increased 1.2 percent during the same period.
Since January, 270 cases and four deaths have been reported, representing more than half of the 423 cases related to the outbreak. Only one other death had been reported before 2020.
To combat this, the state is encouraging people at high risk of contracting the virus to get vaccinated. Those at high risk include drug users, homosexual and bisexual men, and the homeless.
“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A,” said Dr. Erica Wilson, in NCDHHS Division of Public Health medical director for vaccine preventable diseases. “One dose of vaccine is highly effective, and a second dose gives lifelong immunity. We also urge everyone to continue to practice good hand hygiene and safer sex practices. Drug use also increases risk of infection, and individuals who continue to use drugs should practice harm reduction strategies and get vaccinated.”
All local health departments offer the vaccine to residents for free. It also is available from health care providers.