Hepatitis A in Hamilton County Tennessee

This web page has been created to address the local Hepatitis A situation in Hamilton County Tennessee. It will be updated as we move forward. Until then, if you have any questions about the disease, please see the links below or call our Epidemiology section at 423-209-8190. 

Current Cases in Hamilton County, Tennessee

Date  Number of Cases (since early May 2018)
November 21, 2019 271

Those who self-identify with the risk factors listed below may walk into our clinics at 3rd Street, Birchwood, Sequoyah, and Ooltewah without appointment and ask for the free vaccine. The scope of services at our Homeless Healthcare Clinic on 11th Street is reserved for homeless individuals only, please use one of the other clinics if you are not homeless. For a list of all our health department clinic locations, click here.

What is the current situation?

  • The current number of cases (above) is significant because normally about 0 to 1 cases are reported to our Epidemiology section each year. Middle Tennessee and other states around the country (Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Utah, and West Virginia) are experiencing outbreaks of hepatitis A. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department's objective at this point in time is to take action to prevent the spread of the disease locally. Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable and washing one's hands before eating, preparing food and drink, or after changing diapers is one of the best ways to protect oneself. 

What is Hepatitis A?

  • Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection.

What are the symptoms?

  • Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.

What are the major risk factors?

  • Those considered at high risk for hepatitis A infection in this outbreak include:
    • People who abuse drugs;
    • People who live in close contact with a person infected with HAV;
    • People experiencing homelessness; and
    • Men who have sex with men. 

How can you prevent Hepatitis A?

  • Get the safe and effective hepatitis A vaccine, available from any of our clinics for free to those who are in the high risk groups. 
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly before eating, before preparing food or drinks, and after changing diapers.
  • Avoid recreational drug use.
  • Using appropriate protection during sex.

How serious is this disease?

  • The disease can be mild in most people, serious in some, and can result in hospitalization or death. During a similar outbreak in San Diego County, California, from September 1, 2017, to January 23, 2018, 589 cases were reported with 404 (68.6%) hospitalizations and 20 (3.4%) deaths. Notably, this outbreak has had a high hospitalization rate among those infected with hepatitis A.
  • The Hamilton County hospitalization rate is approximately 70%, meaning that about 70% of those who become infected with HAV will be sick enough to require hospitalization. 

Links to further information:

State of Tennessee Hepatitis A Outbreak Webpage

CDC Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Webpage