The Utah Department of Health reports that there have been 118 cases of hepatitis A virus (HAV) across the state since an outbreak first surfaced among Salt Lake City’s homeless population last spring, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. That latest tally includes 31 new cases in the past month alone and is part of a nationwide outbreak of the liver virus that has hit similar communities in California, Colorado and southeast Michigan.
It is believed that Utah’s first outbreak-related case traveled to the state from California in May 2017. Typically, the state sees only about five hepatitis A cases annually, but this year has been different, with over 100 new infections and as many as half of those cases requiring hospitalization.
Health officials note that typically, healthy people recover from hepatitis A within a few weeks after fighting off flu-like symptoms, such as fever, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as a yellowing of the skin. However, homeless people and people with substance abuse issues are far more likely to experience more severe illness.
Utah health agencies report that they have administered more than 10,500 hepatitis A vaccine doses so far. According to the state health department’s latest update on the crisis, once caregivers have vaccinated a few thousand more individuals, the outbreak should wane by early spring.
Meanwhile, county health workers in Salt Lake City are continuing to administer vaccines at several homeless shelters about two to three times a week. In addition, Utah has received a $248,000 grant from Intermountain Healthcare, a regional hospital network, to purchase nearly 9,000 more vaccine doses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help end the outbreak.