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Hepatitis A Prevention

Georgia is currently experiencing a large hepatitis A (HAV) outbreak. The HAV outbreak in Georgia mirrors the large outbreaks that have been occurring in other states, primarily among people who use illegal drugs and people experiencing homelessness. The largest numbers of cases have been in northwest Georgia and Fulton County. There are no known outbreaks of hepatitis A in Gwinnett, Newton, or Rockdale, but we are taking steps to prevent the spread of hepatitis A in our district and protect the health of the community.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that spreads through ingesting food or drinks contaminated with the virus or through close personal contact with an infected person. Common symptoms of hepatitis A infection include yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), joint pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, diarrhea, and light-colored stools. These symptoms may be mild or severe, and some people will not have any symptoms at all.

The best protection against HAV infections and outbreaks is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Georgia Department of Public Health recommend hepatitis A vaccination for the following people:

  • All children at age 1 year
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
  • Anyone wishing to obtain immunity (protection)

You may contact your medical provider or the Health Department for information on how to get the hepatitis A vaccine. If you are a resident of Gwinnett, Newton, or Rockdale County and have additional questions, you may contact your local health department at 770.339.4260, dial 0 and ask to speak with an epidemiologist on call.

Resources for Medical Providers

For additional reading on the hepatitis A outbreak in Georgia, please visit the Georgia Department of Public Health Hepatitis A webpage.

For general information on hepatitis A and frequently asked questions, you may visit the CDC Hepatitis A webpage.

FAQ: Hepatitis A

1.  What is hepatitis A (HAV)?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. A person becomes infected when they ingest the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small amounts of stool that are unable to be seen. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill. Illness can be mild lasting a few weeks or severe lasting many months.

Older children and adults typically develop symptoms. Symptoms usually occur about 28 days after exposure to the virus and last less than 2 months. They may appear abruptly and can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine (brown in color)
  • Diarrhea
  • Light-colored stools
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

2.  Can hepatitis A be prevented?

Yes. Hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Practicing good hand hygiene also plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A. This includes thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective. It includes 2 shots that are given 6 months apart. After one dose, the hepatitis A vaccine is 95% effective for adults and 97% effective for children. After two doses, it is nearly 100% effective. (CDC Pink Book, 2015)

3.  Is it true that there is a hepatitis A outbreak in Georgia?

Georgia is currently experiencing a large hepatitis A (HAV) outbreak. The HAV outbreak in Georgia mirrors the large outbreaks that have been occurring in other states, primarily among people who use illegal drugs and those who are experiencing homelessness. Most cases have been in northwest Georgia and Fulton County. There are currently no known outbreaks of hepatitis A in Gwinnett, Newton, or Rockdale Counties. 

4.  Who is at an increased risk of getting hepatitis A or experiencing complications from a hepatitis A infection?

The following individuals have the highest risk of becoming infected with hepatitis A or developing serious complications:

  • People who use injection or non-injection drugs
  • People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who are or were recently incarcerated
  • People with chronic liver disease

5.  Who should be vaccinated against hepatitis A?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends hepatitis A vaccination for:

  • Individuals at highest risk of getting hepatitis A or experiencing serious complications from hepatitis A infection (see above)
  • All children at age 1 year
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Adopted children from countries where hepatitis A is common and their caregivers
  • People who have direct contact with individuals infected with hepatitis A
  • Anyone wishing to obtain protection
  • People with clotting-factor disorders

6.  How do I know if I need to be vaccinated?

If you have ever been infected with hepatitis A or you have already received the hepatitis A vaccine, you are protected for life. If you are not sure whether you received the hepatitis A vaccine series, your primary care physician may be able to determine your vaccine history.

7.  Where can I go to get the hepatitis A vaccine?

Contact your medical provider for information on how to get the hepatitis A vaccine. You may also contact any of the following GNR Health Centers and tell them you are interested in getting the hepatitis A vaccine.

Lawrenceville Health Center:                770.339.4283

Buford Health Center:                           770.614.2401

Norcross Health Center:                        770.638.5700

Newton County Health Center:             770.786.9086

Rockdale County Health Center: 770.785.4345

If you are a resident of Gwinnett, Newton, or Rockdale County and have more questions, you may contact your local health department at 770.339.4260, dial 0 and ask to speak with an epidemiologist on call.

8.  I work in a restaurant. Can I get vaccinated?

Yes. Vaccines are available at any of our locations. Learn more about hepatitis A.

9.  I’m a restaurant owner/operator. How an I get my facility vaccinated?

If you are a restaurant owner/operator and would like to schedule a vaccine clinic for your employees, send us an email for more information, availability and pricing.