Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) via Flickr
With 14 new cases of Hepatitis A in the past six months, officials are offering free vaccinations to gay and bisexual men, illegal drug users, and the homeless in Nashville, TN. A similar outbreak is ongoing in Kentucky.
In an email from Dr. Bill Paul, the Nashville Metro Health Public Department’s director, he addressed his concerns about the outbreak, and what it means going forward.
“We are early in this response, but based on what we know about hepatitis A and the initial cases, we anticipate that this outbreak will get bigger and require a vigorous response over many months by many organizations,” Dr. Paul wrote.
There are concerns that the Nashville area doesn’t have enough of the vaccine to go around. They currently have 1,150 doses on hand, but this will only cover a fragment of the at-risk population.
According to Neighborhood Health, a network of clinics that will be involved with the vaccination efforts, this amount will only cover some 5% of the communities affected.
Brian Haile, Neighborhood Health CEO, Brian Haile, addressed this. “Neighborhood Health alone cares for over 5,000 homeless people in Nashville. We know there are over 18,000 (gay and bisexual men). And we have an unknown number of drug users.”
“It is of utmost urgency that we work together to fund and find an adequate supply of vaccine for those at risk,” said Haile.
Gay and bisexual men, as well as drug users, will be prioritized in these efforts. Twelve of the 14 cases are apparently connected, and affect people in both groups.
While these twelve cases did not involve the homeless, homeless people are also included in vaccination efforts. It is expected that they would be at risk of exposure.
Dr. Paul wrote, “Based on what has been seen nationally, the homeless population is especially vulnerable.”
“We expect that a more comprehensive, multi-agency outreach effort will be necessary to have a significant protective impact for the homeless. We are now planning that type of campaign and we will also need to identify funding to support it,” he added.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease. While it can be prevented by vaccine, it can nevertheless cause several health complications, and even death.