Monday, May 4, 2015

Recent Travelers to Tulum, Mexico Encouraged to Get Vaccinated

(Salt Lake City, UT) – As of May 1, 2015, a total of 31 cases of hepatitis A, including one in a Utah resident, have been reported in U.S. travelers who visited Tulum, Mexico between January 5, 2015, and March 20, 2015. In order to prevent infection, CDC is recommending that all travelers who have visited Tulum in the last 14 days talk to their health care provider about receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which can prevent or reduce the symptoms of hepatitis A if given within 14 days of exposure.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver. Symptoms usually appear 15-50 days after exposure and include jaundice (yellow eyes or skin), dark urine, fever, extreme fatigue, nausea and abdominal pain. Symptoms tend to be more severe in adults than in children. Most patients completely recover but symptoms may last for weeks to months. Severe liver failure and death are rare and are more common in older patients. The disease is usually acquired through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The disease can also be spread from person-to-person.

Utahns planning travel to Mexico or other countries where hepatitis A is common, should consider receiving hepatitis A vaccine before travel. The vaccine, which has been part of routine childhood immunizations since 2005, is given in 2 doses, 6 months apart and is nearly 100% effective. Vaccine is available through health care providers, local health department clinics, and pharmacies. 

Travelers to Mexico and other developing countries should also follow precautions to avoid exposure to hepatitis A and other food and waterborne infections. These precautions include eating only fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself, pasteurized dairy products and food that is cooked and served hot. Travelers should avoid eating food from street vendors, raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs, raw or undercooked (rare) meat, fish or other 
seafood, unwashed or unpeeled fruits or vegetables, condiments (such as salsa) made with fresh ingredients, salads, unpasteurized dairy products and “bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game). Travelers should only drink bottled water or carbonated drinks purchased in sealed containers or water that has been disinfected (boiled, filtered, treated), hot coffee or tea, or pasteurized milk, and should only use ice made from treated water. Travelers should also frequently wash their hands with soap and running water and use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.

Recent travelers who are sick and think they may have hepatitis A should contact a health care provider and ask if they should be tested. A blood test is necessary to diagnose hepatitis A. There is no specific treatment for the disease, but many patients need IV rehydration and medical monitoring. Persons who are experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A should not prepare or serve food to other people.

More information about the outbreak is available at Persons with questions about hepatitis A should contact their health care provider or local health department.

Media Contact:
Charla Haley