One-Year Anniversary of One of the Largest Hepatitis A Outbreaks in U.S. History Brings Experts Together to Raise Disease Awareness

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- As a result of hepatitis A

outbreaks across the country, former United States Surgeon General, Dr.

Joycelyn Elders, and the National Partnership for Immunization are joining

forces to educate the public about the disease and prevention through



This initiative comes on the one-year anniversary of one of the

largest hepatitis A outbreaks in U.S. history, which caused devastating health

effects and severely affected families and communities near Pittsburgh, Pa.

Hepatitis A is a serious and potentially deadly liver disease that may infect

nearly 100,000 Americans each year.  The disease, which can be prevented

through vaccination, is spread via the fecal-oral route through close personal

contact or the ingestion of water or food contaminated with the hepatitis A

virus.  Children often serve as a reservoir for hepatitis A, and unknowingly

pass it on to adults.


"Many of these outbreaks, including the one in Pennsylvania, occurred in

areas east of the Mississippi that do not typically have high rates of

hepatitis A," said Elders.  "If you take a closer look at the 17 states where

routine hepatitis A vaccination should be implemented or considered, you'll

see what an impact the vaccination has had on lowering the number of cases of

the disease.  It's time for health officials to consider hepatitis A

vaccination for all children at potential risk in order to protect them, their

families and their communities."


Despite the availability of effective vaccines, hepatitis A remains one of

the most commonly reported vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.

Current immunization policies are limited to children in states with high

incidence rates.  However, these states account for only half of all reported

cases of hepatitis A in the country, leaving many at risk for contracting the



One year ago, the hepatitis A outbreak near Pittsburgh affected

approximately 600 people, who contracted the disease from contaminated food at

a local restaurant.  Not only was this one of the largest outbreaks of

hepatitis A in U.S. history, but it also resulted in the deaths of three



"Hepatitis A is a serious and continuing public health threat," said David

Neumann, PhD, executive director of the National Partnership for Immunization.

"Recent outbreaks have had an enormous impact on communities, causing illness

and even death.  Unfortunately, many of these cases could have been prevented

through vaccination."


Hepatitis A can affect anyone, as evidenced by the recent outbreaks in

areas across the country.  According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization

Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, routine

vaccination of children is the most effective way to reduce hepatitis A

incidence nationwide over time.  Research shows that national childhood

vaccination of hepatitis A would reduce the number of primary cases by

54 percent and would be a cost-effective strategy.  Hepatitis A is a

potentially fatal liver disease which significantly impacts the U.S. economy,

costing nearly $500 million annually.


Expanding childhood vaccination requirements could be an effective

strategy to help save lives, reduce the burden of hepatitis A disease and

reduce this negative impact on the economy.  For more information on hepatitis

A and prevention through vaccination, log on to  Support for this educational effort is being

provided by GlaxoSmithKline, a company that joins NPI in its commitment to

help reduce the incidence of hepatitis A in the U.S.


Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.

This virus is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A and is spread by

close personal contact and by eating food or drinking water contaminated with

the hepatitis A virus.  Hepatitis A can be easily passed by those infected

with the disease to others within the same household.  Children are among the

highest risk groups for hepatitis A because they often come in close contact

with other children in child care and school settings.


About one in five people with the disease have to be hospitalized and up

to 100 people with the disease may die each year.  Symptoms of the disease can

be debilitating and include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea,

abdominal discomfort, jaundice and dark urine.


The National Partnership for Immunization (NPI) is a non-profit

organization that was created in 2000 to encourage greater awareness,

acceptance and use of immunization by people of all ages through partnerships

with public and private organizations.  NPI brings together private and public

sector partners, including healthcare provider professional associations,

community-based organizations, policymakers, vaccine manufacturers, insurance

companies, managed care corporations, hospitals, major employers, healthcare

and social service professionals, medical and scientific researchers and

public health advocates to improve the effectiveness of public and

professional educational and outreach efforts to reduce the incidence of

vaccine-preventable diseases among children, adolescents and adults.



Source: National Partnership for Immunization