There’s an outbreak of hepatitis A in multiple Minnesota counties, including Hennepin County, that has caused 13 people to be hospitalized, the Minnesota Department of Health said in an Aug. 8 news release.
Health officials declared the outbreak among people with high-risk factors. While anyone who is not vaccinated against hepatitis A can get the liver infection, people who are homeless or who use street drugs are at a higher risk of infection, especially if they do not have access to sanitary restroom facilities and places to wash their hands.
Health officials also said people who are or recently were incarcerated are also at a higher risk of infection.
“We have been working with our public health partners to respond to individual cases and prevent future cases,” Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director for MDH, said in the release. “Declaring an outbreak is a significant step because it allows us to access additional resources to fight the outbreak.”
There have been 23 reported cases of hepatitis A in nine counties: five in Pine County, three in Hennepin County, three in Mille Lacs County, three in St. Louis County, three in Washington County, one in Chisago County, one in Dakota County and one in Kandiyohi County.
The 13 people who were hospitalized due to the outbreak have since been released.
The health department says initial cases were clustered in east-central Minnesota and had links to each other. However, more recent cases have been diagnosed in other areas of the state.
The source of the infection is not known for some cases, suggesting some community transmission among high-risk groups, the release notes.
Health officials began seeing an increase in hepatitis A cases in May, with the release noting the cases had “similar risk factors” to national outbreaks that have been occurring since 2016. There have been more than 23,600 cases of hepatitis A in 29 states, health officials note.
The health department has been working with its partners — public health departments, syringe exchange services, homeless shelters, jails, etc. — to get in touch with people who are at the highest risk, with the goal of promoting vaccination against hepatitis A. Officials have also been notifying health care providers so they can test for hepatitis A if a patient exhibits symptoms.