Hepatitis A infections rising in Minnesota

State officials urge vaccinations for those at risk

Vaccine inventory
Staff Sgt. Justin Pribble inventories vaccine bottles in August 2014 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Amid a national outbreak since 2016, there have been 44 reported hepatitis A infections in Minnesota and state officials suspect many more infections have not been reported.
Deana Heitzman | Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

The number of hepatitis A infections in Minnesota has been consistently climbing since spring, and state health officials are urging people at risk to get vaccinated.

Infections were initially reported mostly in the north-central part of the state but have recently moved into the Twin Cities, said Kris Ehresmann, director for infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health.

There have been 44 cases reported since December, according to the state. A national outbreak has been going on since 2016.

“The cases are generally occurring in individuals who are homeless or unstably housed, who used drugs, and who have been incarcerated or are incarcerated,” Ehresmann said.

Hepatitis A is typically transmitted through an infected person’s stool. Symptoms include nausea, fever and jaundice. Most people who are infected will recover without medical treatment. But in some cases, it can lead to liver damage.

More than 70 percent of the infections reported in the state involve patients who were hospitalized, according to state records.

“We’re probably missing a lot of cases because the population that’s at risk probably doesn’t have consistent access to health care, so are probably not seeking care until it’s more severe,” Ehresmann said.

State officials are advising people who may be at risk for hepatitis A to get vaccinated. There haven’t yet been any transmissions of hepatitis A reported in jails in the state, but some counties including Hennepin County are providing vaccinations for inmates who are at risk, Ehresmann said.

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