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Rise in Hepatitis A Cases in South Jersey Homeless Population

(Gloucester Township, NJ) – The Camden County Department of Health and Human Services (CCDHHS) has been notified by the state’s Department of Health Med news Communicable Disease Service that New Jersey has joined multiple states that have been experiencing an increased number of hepatitis A cases in their homeless population, primary among those who use drugs. Locally, the rise in cases is being reported primarily in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties.

“Camden County joins in a state and regional effort to increase awareness of this infection, provide education on prevention and treatment, and encourage individuals to adopt safe practices,” said Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the CCDHHS. “We are actively reaching out to our homeless population to provide them with vaccine through our homeless outreach services, local shelters and other facilities where these individuals seek care.”

Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine-preventable illness. The primary means of transmission is typically person-to-person through the fecal-oral route (ingesting something that has been contaminated with stool from an infected person). This can happen when infected people do not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and then touch food or items that are shared with others. We advocate for people to practice proper handwashing to help prevent this illness.

“The hepatitis A vaccine is safe, effective and is the best way to prevent the spread of the illness,” Rodriguez said. “We have reached out to our community partners to help us provide education and vaccine information to those individuals considered high risk.”

Individuals who are at greater risk of getting hepatitis A include those who have had close, personal contact with someone who has hepatitis A, men who have sex with men, those who use street drugs (injected or non-injected) and those living in unsanitary conditions.

Those infected with hepatitis A may have no symptoms, or they may have several symptoms including fever, fatigue, poor appetite, dark yellow urine, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and yellow skin or eyes.

Last fall, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health identified a similar cluster in the Kensington neighborhood. In response, they provided vaccine to the target population.

For other information on hepatitis A, contact the county Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-999-9045.

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