Pima County is taking steps to end an outbreak of hepatitis A that has led to more than 220 cases so far this year. It’s a sharp rise from the dozen or so cases the county typically tracks annually. Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver and can take months to recover from. Three cases this year were fatal. Paula Mandel, deputy director of the Pima County Health Department, explained how the virus is spread and how the county is responding.
“We started seeing our numbers increase in November of last year. We’re almost a year into this outbreak. And that’s concerning for us. We have been trying to help protect those who are at risk and our community, but we’re only at 60% vaccination rate. We still have a lot of work to do,” Mandel said.
Mandel said the goal is to get to achieve a 90% vaccination rate. Other than the vaccine, Mandel said hand-washing after using the bathroom or before eating can help prevent the virus from spreading. Groups in Pima County most impacted by hepatitis A include the homeless and people dealing with substance abuse.