Tag: hepatitis A

Vaccines – Year in Review 2018

Another year has passed and although anti-vaccine folks keep talking about those 300 vaccines in pipeline, there were few new developments in the vaccine world in 2018.

Bob Sears got in trouble with the Medical Board of California over vaccine exemptions.
This happened in 2018.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

Vaccines – Year in Review 2018

So what can we say about 2018 when it comes to vaccines?

Well, we did get some new ones!

  • approved by the FDA in late 2017, a new hepatitis B vaccine for adults, Heplisav-B, the formal recommendation for its use from the ACIP came on February 21, 2018
  • although it was both approved by the FDA and formally recommended by the ACIP in late 2017, Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine, became more widely available in 2018 – well kind of – there have been a lot of shortages due to high demand for the vaccine
  • Vaxelis, a hexavalent vaccine that combines DTaP-IPV-Hib-HepB into one shot was FDA approved on December 21, 2018, but likely won’t be available for a few more years
  • FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, returned

And we lost one… Last year was the first full year that Menomune, an older meningococcal vaccine, was no longer available. It was discontinued because of low demand, as we began to use the newer vaccines, Menactra and Menveo instead.

In other immunization news:

  • a 2017 shortage of yellow fever vaccine continued into 2018
  • a shortage of monovalent pediatric hepatitis B vaccine will continue into 2019 (doesn’t affect combination vaccines with hepatitis B)
  • Gardasil 9 received an expanded recommendation – women and men between the ages of 27 and 45 years can now get vaccinated and protected with this HPV vaccine
  • the hepatitis A vaccine got a lower age recommendation – at least in special situations – “HepA vaccine be administered to infants aged 6–11 months traveling outside the United States when protection against HAV is recommended.”
  • the recommendation to use a third dose of MMR to control outbreaks of mumps was formally approved
  • the WHO updated its recommendations for use of the dengue fever vaccine (Dengvaxia) to makes sure that only dengue-seropositive persons are vaccinated, as they found an increased risk of severe dengue in seronegative people who were vaccinated
  • Of the 163 million to 168 million doses of flu vaccine that will be distributed in the United States for the 2018-2019 season, more than 80% will be thimerosal free.
  • China had an issue with substandard DTaP vaccines made by one company in one part of the country
  • India had an issue with contaminated polio vaccines made by one company in one part of the country – bivalent oral polio vaccines (two strains) still contained all three strains of polio vaccine virus
  • Measles cases and deaths spiked globally because of gaps in vaccination coverage

If you didn’t hear about any of those things in the news, you may have heard about the death of two young children in Samoa after they received an MMR vaccine. That tragedy almost certainly was caused by an error in administering/mixing the vaccines, and not because there was anything wrong with the vaccines themselves.

Need help getting educated about vaccines? Despite continued outbreaks, 2018 was a good year for vaccine advocates and vaccine education.

Several good books about vaccines were published, including:

And in case you missed it, we found out that:

Of course, for most of us, none of this is really news. We know that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

And sadly, Betty Bumpers died. We can honor her legacy by continuing her work and helping to make sure that every child gets vaccinated and protected.

More on Vaccines Year in Review 2018

Are More People Dying of Viral Hepatitis?

We have two vaccines to protect folks against viral hepatitis.

The first, against hepatitis B, was developed in 1981, but was replaced by an improved vaccine in 1989. It wasn’t added to the immunization schedule until 1991 though. Next came the hepatitis A vaccine in 1996.

Are More People Dying of Viral Hepatitis?

Although we don’t often think of them that way, these types of hepatitis can cause life threatening infections. Hepatitis B can even cause cancer!

Are deaths from hepatitis really skyrocketing?
Are deaths from hepatitis really skyrocketing?

So why would more people be dying of hepatitis A and B after we developed vaccines to help prevent them, a new idea being pushed by anti-vaccine folks?

They aren’t.

For example, there were 31,582 cases of hepatitis A and 142 deaths in 1995, just before the vaccine was approved. In 2016, there were just over 2,000 cases and 70 deaths.

What about hepatitis B?

The record high for yearly new cases was in 1985. In 2016, we are near record lows, with 3,218 new cases and 1,698 deaths.

Why are people still dying of hepatitis B?

Because even though far fewer people are getting new infections, there are still an estimated 850,000 to 2.2 million adults in the United States who already have chronic hepatitis B infections.

“…rates of acute Hepatitis B in the United States have declined by approximately 82% since 1991.”

Hepatitis B FAQs for the Public

So how can they say that hepatitis deaths are skyrocketing?

It’s easy. It is classic anti-vaccine propaganda. To fool folks, they talk about “all strains” of hepatitis and not just vaccine-preventable types.

Remember, there are multiple types of hepatitis, including A, B, C, D, and E. These are all caused by different viruses, even though they all cause hepatitis.

And since 2006, the incidence of hepatitis C has been climbing sharply. Tragically, so have the number of deaths. In 2016, there were 18,153 deaths from hepatitis C, which is not yet vaccine-preventable.

Hepatitis deaths are increasing.

All strains? Nope. Just the non-vaccine preventable strains. Deaths from hepatitis A and hepatitis B have greatly decreased since the pre-vaccine era.

All ages? Nope. Children have been protected from rising hepatitis deaths, as they are not typically at high risk for hepatitis C, which is causing the surge in deaths, and they should be vaccinated and protected against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

What to Know About Viral Hepatitis Deaths

Viral hepatitis deaths are increasing, but only for non-vaccine preventable strains.

More on Viral Hepatitis Deaths

 

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a vaccine preventable disease.

The hepatitis A vaccine was first added to the immunization schedule in 1996, but wasn’t made a universal recommendation for all children until 2006. At first, it was just given to high risk kids.

Now all toddlers begin to get a two dose hepatitis A vaccine series beginning when they are 1 to 2 years old, with 6 to 18 months between the doses.

Unfortunately, unlike many other vaccines, there was never a catch-up plan for those who were unvaccinated, so some teens and many adults are still not vaccinated and still not protected against hepatitis A infections.

Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

How do you get hepatitis A?

“The hepatitis A virus is able to survive outside the body for months. High temperatures, such as boiling or cooking food or liquids for at least 1 minute at 185°F (85°C), kill the virus, although freezing temperatures do not.”

CDC on Hepatitis A Questions and Answers

Unlike hepatitis B, which is spread through blood and body fluids, people who are infected with hepatitis A shed the virus in their stool.

So you can get infected by having close contact with someone who has hepatitis A or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

How do you know if you have been exposed?

While an employee in the produce department at a Kroger in Kentucky recently exposed folks to hepatitis A, back in 2016 it was a Whole Foods in Michigan that was linked to an outbreak.
While an employee in the produce department at a Kroger in Kentucky recently exposed folks to hepatitis A, back in 2016 it was a Whole Foods in Michigan that was linked to an outbreak.

Exposures are most common in local common-source outbreaks caused by sick food handlers at restaurants and grocery stores and multi-state hepatitis A outbreaks caused by contaminated foods. These types of exposures are usually announced by your local or state health department.

Other exposures occur if you are living with someone who develops hepatitis A or travel to a country where hepatitis A is still common.

What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

If your unvaccinated child is exposed to hepatitis A, you should talk to your pediatrician or local health department about starting post-exposure prophylaxis as soon as possible and not longer than 14 days, including either:

  • the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine, with plans to get the second dose of vaccine in 6 months, or
  • a dose of immune globulin (provides a passive transfer of antibodies)

In general, getting the hepatitis A vaccine is preferred over getting immune globulin for most healthy people between 12 months and 40 years of age. For infants less than 12 months (too young to be vaccinated) and unvaccinated adults over age 40 years, immune globulin is preferred after an exposure to hepatitis A.

Immune globulin is also preferred for anyone who is immunocompromised or chronic liver disease.

What if it has been more than 14 days since the exposure?

While it is likely too late for immune globulin, your unvaccinated child should still likely get a dose of hepatitis A vaccine to protect against future exposures. And watch carefully over the next 15 to 50 days (the incubation period) for symptoms of hepatitis A, which can include jaundice, fever, and vomiting, etc. Many children don’t have symptoms though, so your child could develop hepatitis A, and be contagious and expose others without your even knowing it.

If post-exposure vaccination works, can’t you just wait until your child is exposed to get vaccinated? That might work – if you could be sure about each and every exposure that your child will ever have. Since that’s not possible, don’t delay getting vaccinated and put your child at risk of getting hepatitis A.

What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A vaccine is very effective.

One dose provide 95% protection against hepatitis A infections and the second dose boosts the efficacy rate up to 99%.

If your child is partially vaccinated, with just one dose and has been exposed to hepatitis A, get the second dose if it has been at least six months since he was vaccinated. Otherwise, talk to your pediatrician or local health department, but your child is likely considered protected.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

Learn what to do if your child is exposed to hepatitis A, especially if they aren’t already vaccinated and protected.

More on Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

Where Are the Latest Hepatitis A Outbreaks?

The hepatitis A vaccine, introduced in 1996, worked to decrease the incidence of hepatitis A infections in the United States.
The hepatitis A vaccine, introduced in 1996, worked to decrease the incidence of hepatitis A infections in the United States. Source – CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A is a now vaccine-preventable disease thanks to the hepatitis A vaccine that was first licensed in 1995.

Despite being added to the childhood immunization schedule in 1996 (kids living in high risk areas at first and gradually expanded to all kids in 2006), we do continue to see outbreaks of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A

Although they are all viruses that can cause hepatitis, hepatitis A doesn’t share too much in common with hepatitis B and C.

Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A:

  • often doesn’t cause any symptoms at all in very young children
  • is spread by fecal-oral transmission (not blood and body fluids), typically from one person to another or after eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • is much less likely to cause complications, but still did cause over 100 deaths from fulminant hepatitis A each year

In older children and adults, they symptoms of hepatitis A can include jaundice, fever, malaise, anorexia, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and dark urine, all of which can linger for up to two to six months.

Hepatitis A Epidemics and Outbreaks

In the prevaccine era, before the mid-1990s, hepatitis A outbreaks were common and “hepatitis A occurred in large nationwide epidemics”

After it became a nationally reportable disease in 1966, we saw peaks of hepatitis A disease in the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s and an estimated 180,000 infections per year in the United States.

Not surprisingly, those large nationwide epidemics soon disappeared as hepatitis A vaccination rates rose.

“Vaccination of high risk groups and public health measures have significantly reduced the number of overall hepatitis A cases and fulminant HAV cases. Nonetheless, hepatitis A results in substantial morbidity, with associated costs caused by medical care and work loss.”

CDC on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

We do still see some hepatitis A outbreaks though, including:

  • a multistate outbreak in 2013 linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey (162 cases and 71 hospitalizations)
  • a multistate outbreak in 2016 linked to frozen strawberries (143 cases and 56 hospitalizations)
  • an outbreak in Hawaii in 2016 linked to raw scallops (292 cases and 74 hospitalizations)

Since 2017, there have been clusters of hepatitis A outbreaks in at least 15 states, including California, Utah, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Florida.

The Arkansas outbreak, which includes at least 247 cases and 2 deaths since February 2018, includes exposures at a Taco Bell, a Subway restaurant, a gas station, a catfish restaurant, a BBQ restaurant, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Red Lobster, and a Steak ‘n’ Shake.

In Kentucky, of 3,122 cases and 19 deaths, although most of the cases are related to illicit drug use, many have no outbreak related risk factors and there have been exposures from workers in restaurants and grocery stores, including an Applebee’s, Kroger, Denny’s, White Castle, Taco Bell, and an Arby’s.

Many of recent outbreaks are among men having sex with men, among IV drug users, and the homeless, but they can lead to exposures in people with no risk factors.

These have included fatal outbreaks in Arkansas, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Michigan, California, Indiana, and Colorado.

From historic lows, we were up to at least 11,166 hepatitis A cases in the United States in 2018.

Getting Hepatitis A

You can get hepatitis A if you are not immune and you are exposed in one of these outbreaks. Still, hepatitis A cases are at historic lows, with about 1,390 cases being reported in 2015.

Even more commonly, you might get hepatitis A if you are not immune and travel to a part of the world where hepatitis A either has high or intermediate endemicity (many people are infected), including many parts of Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

Or you could just be exposed to someone who traveled to or from one of these areas, became infected, and is still contagious.

Avoiding Hepatitis A

How can you avoid getting caught up in one of these hepatitis A outbreaks?

Get vaccinated.

Can’t you just wash your hands or avoid eating contaminated food? Since you can get hepatitis A by simply eating food that has been prepared by someone who has hepatitis A and is still contagious, washing your own hands won’t be enough. Even drinking bottled water when traveling might not protect you from contaminated water if you use ice cubes or wash fruits and vegetables in water that might be contaminated.

Remember, if your child did not get a routine 2-dose series of the hepatitis A vaccine when they were between 12 to 23 months old, they can still get one at any time to get immunity against hepatitis A infections.

“On February 25, 2009, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended routine hepatitis A vaccination for household members and other close personal contacts (e.g., regular babysitters) of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate hepatitis A endemicity.”

ACIP on the  Latest Hepatitis A Vaccine Recommendations

Adults can get the vaccine too.

It is an especially good idea if you are not immune and will be traveling out of the United States or are in another risk group, including food handlers, daycare workers, health care workers, and people who consume high risk foods, especially raw shellfish.

“Simultaneous administration of MMR and HepA vaccines is recommended for infants aged 6–11 months traveling internationally.”

Update: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Hepatitis A Vaccine for Postexposure Prophylaxis and for Preexposure Prophylaxis for International Travel

In fact, infants should get an early dose if they are at least six months old and will be traveling out of the United States.

What to Know About Hepatitis A Outbreaks

With all of the recent outbreaks of hepatitis A, it is an especially good idea to make sure that your family is vaccinated and protected.

More Information on Hepatitis A Outbreaks:

Updated on January 9, 2019

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