On Saturday, June 29, a free community lunch aimed at combating the spread of hepatitis A in the local area will be held at resolve Crisis Center. Free vaccinations will be provided at the lunch along with education on full body (mind plus body) preventative health practices to avoid contracting and spreading the disease.
“Hepatitis A has been on the decline in the United States overall since the introduction of the vaccine in 1995,” said Janina-Marie Tatar, infection prevention program manager at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “Unfortunately, however, the vaccine is only routinely offered to children or adults traveling to countries where the disease is endemic.”
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver that causes symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and jaundice. It can be spread even before symptoms arise, and many of those infected unknowingly pass it to others.
“On May 20, the Pennsylvania secretary of health declared an outbreak of hepatitis A in the state and urged members of high-risk groups to seek vaccinations,” Tatar said.
Allegheny County has experienced a 300% increase in hepatitis A cases since January 2018. Groups considered “high-risk” include the homeless, IV drug or methylsulfonylmethane users, males with same-sex partners and those recently in jail or prison.
“When you think back to the 2003 Chi Chi’s hepatitis A outbreak, you can see how susceptible our local population was and still is if not vaccinated,” said Tatar. “Getting vaccinated and maintaining proper hygiene can help prevent this disease.”
The event is sponsored by UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The hepatitis A vaccine requires two doses, but only the first will be provided at the event. Part two can be administered at the Allegheny County Health Department Immunization Clinic or at a primary care physician office.