Amid a nationwide outbreak of hepatitis A virus, a top U.S. advisory committee is for the first time recommending routine hepatitis A virus (HAV) vaccination for homeless people, The Durango Herald reports.
Last Wednesday at a meeting in Atlanta, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices urged health care providers to provide shots to all homeless people who have not yet received one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to adopt the recommendation and send similar guidance to hospitals and clinics across the country.
Experts say the unsanitary conditions of homeless encampments exacerbate the risk for infection with hepatitis A. The virus spreads from person to person via food, shared needles, sex and close personal contact.
The recommendation not only raises awareness but would also make it easier for shelters, emergency rooms and clinics that serve homeless people to offer hepatitis A vaccines along with other health care services. Officials say even low rates of routine vaccination can slow the spread of the virus among the homeless community.
Meanwhile, 12 states have reported hepatitis A outbreaks over the past two years, with an estimated 7,500 new infections. There have been more than 4,300 hospitalizations related to the outbreak, and about 74 deaths.
Currently, hepatitis A vaccines cost $28 per dose and are available through the public health system. Officials say routine vaccination among homeless people could save the health care system millions of dollars while saving thousands from illness and potential health complications.