Vermont sees outbreak of hepatitis, health officials say

Attention, Vermont residents: An outbreak of hepatitis is affecting The Green Mountain State.

A spokesperson for the Vermont Department of Health on Thursday confirmed to Fox News the statewide outbreak of hepatitis A and B.

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By late 2019, there were 12 reported cases of hepatitis A and nine cases of hepatitis B, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said in a news release provided to Fox News. Both of those numbers are up from the five-year averages of 3 cases of hepatitis A per year, and fewer than 3 cases per year of hepatitis B per year. It’s not clear how the outbreak began, but surrounding states  – namely New Hampshire and Massachusetts  – are also facing similar outbreaks, as per the release.

Many of those affected have been hospitalized, officials said.

“We’ve been anticipating an outbreak of hepatitis A cases here from monitoring how this has evolved in other states,” Levine said in a statement. “We are working closely with health care providers to ensure that Vermonters are vaccinated, and with our community partners to get the word out to people who are at high risk of infection, some of whom can be difficult to reach.”

Hepatitis A, a liver infection, is caused by a virus that typically spreads when a person eats or drinks something “contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those who contract hepatitis A – not to be confused with hepatitis B or C, which are caused by different viruses – may be sick for “several weeks" but usually fully recover, according to the CDC. It is rare to die from the illness, though hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, typically in those who are 50 years of age or older.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, dark urine, vomiting, joint pain, and jaundice, among other signs. The disease is preventable with a vaccine.

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Hepatitis B is a liver infection but caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is typically transmitted when, “blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected,” as per the CDC.

This typically happens through sexual contact or by sharing needles and syringes. The disease is preventable with a vaccine but can be serious if left untreated.