Cochise County responds swiftly to Hepatitis A outbreak, offers free vaccinations

Cochise County responds swiftly to Hepatitis A outbreak, offers free vaccinations
The hepatitis A vaccine. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated, health officials say. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - More than 700 people have been vaccinated by Cochise Health & Social Services in an ongoing effort to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A, according to a recent news release.

Health staff swiftly responded to an outbreak, which began in March when five local cases of the disease were confirmed in communities across the County.

As part of the County’s outreach to stop Hepatitis A spreading in the region, the health department is offering walk-in clinics at its service centers in the coming weeks, as follows:

  • Douglas (1012 N. G Avenue) – May 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sierra Vista (VFW, 549 Veterans Drive) – May 29, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sierra Vista (4115 E. Foothills Drive) – May 31, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Benson (126 W. 5th Street) – June 5, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Willcox (450 S. Haskell Avenue) – June 7, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Following confirmation of a Hepatitis A outbreak among individuals with risk factors, the County activated engagement teams who will continue to work throughout the community to prevent the further spread of the disease.

During the first phase of engagement, a total of 234 vaccines were administered which, in addition to doses given before the outbreak, means 535 additional community members are now immune to Hepatitis A. Additionally, 185 individuals were vaccinated at the County Jail, bringing the total to 720.

“These efforts have provided several hundred people with Hepatitis A immunity, meaning they will not contract or spread the disease,” said Health Director Carrie Langley, in the news release. “Our health staff are having a positive impact on the mitigation of Hepatitis A and its impact on our local communities.”

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable infectious disease that typically spreads from person-to-person via fecal oral contact. It can also spread via contaminated needles and drug paraphernalia, sexual contact, or unsanitary living conditions. Additionally, it can be spread through contact with food or objects infected individuals have had contact with.

Symptoms may include abrupt onset of fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, usually followed by jaundice within a few days.

Those with an increased risk include:

  • Persons experiencing homelessness
  • Persons who use drugs (injection and non-injection drugs)
  • Persons with direct contact with individuals infected with Hepatitis A
  • Individuals who are incarcerated, or previously incarcerated within the past 6 months

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination, which is given in two doses over a six-month period. Hand washing is another essential step in stopping the spread of the disease.

For further information call Cochise Health & Social Services at 1-833-670-5786.

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