Two East Tennessee counties, Campbell and Scott, have reported an increased incidence of hepatitis A cases for the second time this year. The East Tennessee Regional Health Department has confirmed eight cases of hepatitis A since June 25, and the Health Department is working to determine the source of a potential outbreak. In April, 2005, 23 cases were confirmed in Campbell, Scott, and Anderson counties, but health officials were unable to pinpoint the source of the earlier outbreak.
Hepatitis A is a virus that primarily infects the liver. Symptoms of infection may not appear for 15-50 days after exposure to the virus. They include muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, fever, and malaise. After a few days of initial symptoms, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) sets in. In rare cases, the hepatitis A virus causes liver failure and impairs the infected person’s cognitive functioning.
“Ideally, outbreaks would be prevented by vaccination against hepatitis A,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney with a law practice dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness. “I’ve represented hundreds of people in the last two years who either became ill with, or were exposed to, the hepatitis A virus. Some have had liver transplants, or even died after suffering from acute hepatitis A infection.” The CDC estimates that at least 100 people die each year after suffering from hepatitis A-induced liver failure.
“This is the second time since April that public health has been put at risk in East Tennessee. People need to know that outbreaks can be prevented through widespread vaccination against hepatitis A. It’s time to take this threat more seriously and do what we can to stop outbreaks before they start,” Marler concluded.
Marler has represented hundreds of victims of hepatitis A outbreaks, including over 75 victims of a 2003 hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania that was traced to contaminated green onions, and 29 people who were infected with hepatitis A after being exposed at a Seattle Subway sandwich shop. Marler Clark has also represented thousands of people who were forced to receive Immune Globulin injections to prevent infection with hepatitis A after they were exposed to the virus by infected food handlers.