Metro Public Health Department officials announced that a Hepatitis A outbreak has hit Nashville with a total of 14 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A.
The cases have been reported in Nashville over the past five months (since Dec. 1) - a dramatic increase compared to the average of two cases a year Nashville normally sees.
MPHD officials said they were working with the Tennessee Department of Health on efforts to control the outbreak.
The Metro Public Health department says its greatest concern during the outbreak are among men who have sexual contact with men, and illicit drug users (both who Use needles and who don’t).
Brian Haile with Neighborhood Health, a community health clinic, says he’s concerned with the number of available doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine.
“There are over 18,000 men who have sex with men in Nashville. There are over 5,000 homeless individuals in Nashville, and there are an unknown number of drug users, Haile told NewsChannel 5. "We want to work closely with the Metro Public Health Department, to ensure that Nashville immediately gets an adequate supply of vaccine.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk of exposure to hepatitis A in the current outbreaks include:
- Illicit drug users (not just injection drug use)
- Men who have sexual contact with men
- Individuals experiencing homelessness
MPHD will be offering free hepatitis A vaccines beginning Tuesday at all three Health Centers to those three at-risk groups.
Based on current confirmed cases, the immediate priority includes men who have sexual contact with men, and illicit drug users (injection and non-injection).
MPHD operates three health centers, East Health Center, 1015 East Trinity Lane, Lentz Health Center, 2500 Charlotte Ave., and Woodbine Health Center, 224 Oriel Ave. MPHD Health Centers are open from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday.
MPHD has hepatitis A vaccine available for children and adults as well. Since 2006, the CDC has recommended all young children routinely be vaccinated against hepatitis A; the vaccine has been required for daycare and kindergarten entry in Tennessee since 2011.
All children under 19 years who do not have private insurance coverage for vaccines, including uninsured and TennCare-eligible children, may be vaccinated through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program by their health care provider or at any local health department. The cost for vaccine is $40 for children not eligible for the VFC program who are 18 years old and younger.
The vaccine can also be found at area health care providers in Nashville for those with insurance. Many insurance plans cover the costs of hepatitis A vaccine without a deductible or co-pay, if administered by an in-network health care provider.