North Carolina has reported its first death from hepatitis A, a virus-borne infection that can be prevented by vaccination.
The death, which took place in October, is part of a multi-stage outbreak of the potentially fatal disease, said the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. on Tuesday.
The state health authority does not provide information on death to protect the privacy of the affected family.
The hepatitis A outbreak is associated with human-to-human transmission primarily between three high-risk groups: those who consume drugs by injection or otherwise, homeless people and men who have sex with men.
To prevent the spread of the disease in North Carolina, the county health ministries offer free vaccinations for uninsured and at-risk populations, said Heidi Swygard, Medical Director of Viral Hepatitis in the Public Health Division of NC DHHS.
According to Swygard, North Carolina does not require hepatitis A vaccinations, and many Americans have not developed any immunity to the disease because they are not widely distributed.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection that can turn into a mild disease in just a few weeks or develop into a serious illness that lasts several months after DHHS. The agency said hepatitis A is usually transmitted through food or water that has been contaminated with fecal matter by an infectious person.
The outbreak, announced in March 2017 by the US Centers for Disease Control, has led to an increase in hepatitis infections in North Carolina, particularly in Mecklenburg County.
North Carolina reported 64 cases of hepatitis on October 31 this year.
The annual average of the state for the totality of hepatitis infections between 2013 and 2107 was 41 cases of hepatitis per year.
Of the 37 events related to the outbreak, 20 were reported in Mecklenburg County. Six were reported in the triangle: three in Wake County, two in Johnston and one in Durham.
Hepatitis A symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. Some patients develop jaundice and discolored urine and feces.
The outbreak has been reported in a dozen states, many with more cases than in North Carolina. Kentucky reported a total of 2,410 cases and 16 deaths, while 704 cases and 21 deaths were reported in California and 899 cases and 28 deaths in Michigan.