Maine CDC Press Release

October 29, 2018

Maine CDC Offers Free Vaccines to Those at Highest Risk as a Precaution Following Confirmed Hepatitis A Case in Portland Shelter

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has identified one case of hepatitis A in an individual who has stayed in two shelters in Portland, Maine. The case stayed overnight at Oxford Street Shelter and Florence House, and spent time during the day at Preble Street Resource Center during their infectious period, which was October 1 through October 21.

This case is of concern because several states in the U.S. are experiencing outbreaks of hepatitis A infections, especially among persons experiencing homelessness and persons who use drugs.

In response to this situation, Maine CDC is holding a free hepatitis A vaccination clinic at the Preble Street Resource Center located at 38 Preble Street in Portland for anyone who stayed at one of these shelters or used the Resource Center during this time. Maine CDC's Public Health Nursing Program will be administering hepatitis A vaccine at Preble Street on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, from 8:00am to 1:00pm, and on Thursday, November 1st, 2018 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm.

"Although we only have a single case at this time, we are proactively holding this clinic to protect those who might have been exposed," says Maine CDC Director, Dr. Bruce Bates. "We want to prevent the spread of this disease and hopefully avoid an outbreak situation like several US states are currently experiencing, such as Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Utah, and California."

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, contagious liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms can range from mild illness to a severe sickness that requires hospitalization and can last several months. Most adults with hepatitis A have a sudden onset of symptoms such as tiredness, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Most children younger than six years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.

Hepatitis A can be spread person-to-person through the sharing of personal items such as cups, utensils, towels, toothbrushes, cigarettes, pipes, syringes, and sexual contact. Hepatitis A virus is easily spread from person-to-person in areas where sanitary conditions and personal hygiene practices are poor. Hepatitis A can also be spread through contaminated food or water, especially in food prepared by a person who is infected. In the United States, hepatitis A is responsible for approximately 100 deaths annually.

People who have been in contact with someone who has hepatitis A should consult a doctor for advice as treatment may be possible. Examples of close contacts are household members, sexual partners, and anyone who ate food that was prepared by an infectious person with diarrhea and/or poor hand hygiene.

To protect yourself from hepatitis A:

  • Get vaccinated, especially if you are homeless, use drugs (injection or non-injection), are a man who has sex with men, have chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis B or C, or travel to areas overseas where hepatitis A is common.
  • Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or engaging in sexual activity. Always wash your hands before preparing or eating food.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider if you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

If you are homeless, use drugs, a man who has sex with men, have chronic liver disease, or travel overseas to areas where hepatitis is common, you should also consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis B.

For more information on hepatitis A visit:www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm

Hepatitis A Fact Sheet (PDF)