Doctors like to tell people to wash their hands. Hepatitis A is one of the biggest reasons why. Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread mostly by dirty hands. Specifically, it’s spread by fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — that moves from those dirty hands into food and drinks.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,390 people contracted hepatitis A nationwide in 2015, and 67 of them died. For those who aren’t vaccinated, all it takes is one bad visit to the wrong restaurant to get really, really sick.
The number of hepatitis A cases in Texas dropped from 461 in 2005 to just 147 in 2015 (the last year for which data are available), according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
This decline is directly attributable to higher immunization rates. Vaccines have been available for at-risk people since 1993, but they became recommended for all U.S. school children beginning in 2006. Today, the people most at risk of getting hepatitis A are those above the age of 30 who are not vaccinated and who are planning to visit a country with high rates of the disease.
As a physician, you understand how important and beneficial vaccinations are in controlling preventable diseases.
However, mistrust and misinformation have led to a growing movement against vaccines, driven in part, ironically, by how effective they’ve been in eradicating many infectious diseases.
To address this vexing problem, Texas Medicine each month will highlight a disease that childhood and adult vaccinations can prevent. The material is designed to help you talk to your patients about the realities of these diseases, and to help them understand the benefits of immunizations. You can find a copy to print out for your patients at www.texmed.org/TalkHepA.
Be Wise — ImmunizeSM is a public health initiative of TMA. The program works with physicians, medical students, and TMA Alliance members to improve vaccination rates.
Click here for a printable version of the graphic below