INELAND – The health department is worried hepatitis A infections might begin appearing in Vineland, as they have recently in several South Jersey counties.
A month ago, the New Jersey Department of Health moved to supply vaccines for use in Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties.
A total of 26 hepatitis A cases had been confirmed among the three counties. Gloucester had the most cases, at 11. The virus affects the liver.
Macleod Carre, the city health director, told City Council members Tuesday night the proximity makes him “really apprehensive.”
Carre said the virus is common among people who inject drugs. It also crops up among homeless populations and the city has many homeless people, he said.
“I did follow up on making sure all our EMTs (emergency medical technicians) are up to date because they have to get a hepatitis A and B (vaccine) in order to protect them from infection,” Carre said. “But with that homeless population and injection drug users, I’m really nervous about there being a spike.”
The director said the department could move ahead of any outbreak to use its mobile unit to offer vaccines to homeless people. The rub is that the medicine costs about $100 an injection, he said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the virus is preventable. An effective vaccine was introduced in 1995 and infection rates dropped by more than 95 percent, until a rebound in 2012 and 2013, according to the CDC.
The CDC states that the virus usually is transmitted person-to-person through a “fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water,” among other ways. Its symptoms are fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice among adults but most children do not have symptoms.
By: Joseph P. Smith