Updated June 19, 2019 - 7:30 pm
A jump in acute hepatitis A cases in Clark County this year has prompted local health officials to declare an outbreak.
There have been more reported hepatitis A cases from Jan. 1 through May 31 than during that same period for the last three years combined, the Southern Nevada Health District announced Wednesday.
During the first five months of this year there were 37 reported cases, topping the 17 in 2018, zero in 2017 and six in 2016 in that same period.
Vaccination is the best defense against hepatitis A, but good hygiene habits like hand washing also decrease risk of infection, the district said in a release.
“This current outbreak of hepatitis A in our community is an unfortunate but important reminder of why vaccines are vital to both our individual and community health,” said Dr. Joe Iser, chief health officer for the district.
About 86 percent of the patients so far this year used drugs and 65 percent of them were considered homeless, the release said.
Those who may be at risk for a hepatitis infection include people with chronic liver disease, men who have sex with men, people who travel to or work in countries where the infection is common, people with direct contact with infected people and those with clotting-factor disorders, the release said.
Hepatitis A has a shorter incubation period than hepatitis B, and the former doesn’t carry the risk of chronic infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of hepatitis A may include jaundice, fever, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stool and nausea, the district said.