Portland Public Health
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has declared an outbreak of hepatitis A in the state. Since 2019, the Maine CDC has identified 297 cases of hepatitis A, a significant increase from the previous yearly average of 7.5 cases.
Those most at risk for hepatitis A include international travelers, recreational drug users, and people living in crowded shelters. When a person is infected with hepatitis A, the infection leaves the body through the person’s bowel movements. Unwashed hands can spread the virus to anything the infected person touches, including food, water, surfaces, and other people.
The word hepar is Latin for “liver” and –itis simply means “swelling.” So hepatitis is “swelling of the liver.” When the liver swells, it is damaged and doesn’t do its job of balancing nutrients and filtering blood. Hepatitis A symptoms include jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, dark urine, clay-colored stool, and diarrhea.
While most cases of hepatitis A resolve by themselves, with rest and fluids, infection may lead to serious complications and death. Maine CDC had reported a 43% hospitalization rate during the current outbreak. The best prevention for hepatitis A are vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine and practicing good hand hygiene.
Vaccines are available for adults and children at Portland Public Health. For eligibility information and appointments, call (207) 874-8446 or email [email protected].
Many community health centers, including federally qualified health centers across the state, also provide hepatitis A vaccines (mepca.org/community-health-centers/locations/).
More information about hepatitis A can be found on Maine CDC’s website at www.maine.gov/dhhs/hepatitis.