PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Health officials are warning of a Hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia. The commonwealth is one of 24 states experiencing outbreaks.
There are now 14 cases are now connected to an employee of Famous Anthony’s restaurant in Roanoke. The outbreak started in August.
The concern is now for community spread.
“Hepatitis A can be transmitted through person-to-person contact or through contaminated food or drink. So that means anyone really can be at risk,” Dr. Leah Smith, a doctor of pharmacy and vaccine educator with GlaxoSmithKline, told WAVY.
During National Liver Awareness Month in October, she is urging adults to protect themselves with the vaccine.
“Those high-risk groups would include people who use drugs, both injectable and non-injectable, people who may be experiencing homelessness, as well as men who have sex with men. But in over 30% of the cases, there is no identifiable risk for it,” Dr. Smith said.
Stan, a 69-year-old Michigan man, believes he got Hepatitis A when dining out four years ago. It almost killed him.
“I was just completely out of it for a week. I didn’t know what was going on. I was in the hospital and my wife had to take over speaking for me,” he told WAVY.
The virus destroyed his liver in a few short weeks and he had to have a liver transplant.
“It’s an extreme case, but in my case, well, that’s how it was,” he said.
Most babies and teens are protected from the virus because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the vaccine since 2006. Most adults — 85%, Dr. Smith said — have not received the two-dose shot regimen that provides long-term protection.
The CDC says any adult who wants a vaccine can and should get one.
Stan highly advises it.
“It will save them a whole lot and they won’t have to experience what I’m going through, even though it’s the worst case scenario, but you just never know,” he said.
You can get more information on the vaccine from your doctor, pharmacist and the CDC.