Officials with Metro Public Health announced Friday that a Heptatitis A outbreak is occurring in Nashville.
According to a release from the public health department, there have been 14 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A in Nashville since December 1, 2017.
Metro public health officials said they are working with the Tennessee Department of Health on efforts to control the outbreak.
Officials said the outbreaks have hit several other states, including Kentucky and Indiana. The illness can spread from person to person, primarily among people who are homeless and who use drugs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk of exposure to hepatitis A in the current outbreaks include:
• Illicit drug users (not just injection drug use)
• Men who have sexual contact with men
• Individuals experiencing homelessness
Since 2006, the CDC has recommended all young children routinely be vaccinated against hepatitis A; the vaccine has been required for daycare and kindergarten entry in Tennessee since 2011.
All children under 19-years-old who do not have private insurance coverage for vaccines, including uninsured and TennCare-eligible children, may be vaccinated through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program by their health care provider or at any local health department.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common symptoms include: fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), and clay-colored stools.
The disease can be severe in some people possibly requiring hospitalization. Most recover completely within a few weeks. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.
Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
Officials said the best way to prevent the disease is to get the vaccine.
MPHD is offering free Hepatitis A vaccines beginning Tuesday at all three health centers. The cost for vaccine is $40 for children not eligible for the VFC program who are 18 years old and younger.
Officials said that, based on the already confirmed cases, their immediate priority is men that have had sexual contact with men and illicit drug users.
For a list of Metro Public Health Department locations, click here.