Hospitalizations between 2002 and 2011 in the United States due to hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection declined significantly, according to new research reports. Data was published in a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Hepatology. Results point to older patients and people with chronic liver disease as the most likely to be hospitalized because of HAV. To prevent the infection, and consequently the hospitalization, vaccinating adults suffering from chronic liver disease may be needed.
Each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.4 million people worldwide are infected with HAV. Hepatitis A is a liver disease transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and water or by direct contact with someone who is already infected. The symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, and loss of appetite. The HAV infection cases have decreased 90 percent in the United States, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,000 new cases develop each year.
This study examines trends in the hospitalizations due to HAV in the U.S. through National Inpatient Survey discharge data. Dr. Melissa Collier from the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC, Atlanta, and her colleagues identified patients that were hospitalized between 2002 and 2011 for primary hepatitis A.
Hospitalization rates decreased from 0.72 to 0.29 per 100,000 cases during the years that were studied. The average age of the patients hospitalized increased from 38 to 46 years, and the hospitalizations covered by Medicare increased as well, from 12 to 23 percent. Analysis found that there was “an increase in accompanying diseases (comorbidities) that include liver disease, hypertension, heart disease, metabolic syndromes, and chronic kidney disease,” as noted in the press release. Researchers also found that patients with liver diseases stayed hospitalized longer.
This assessment report offers good news about the amount of patients suffering with hepatitis A being hospitalized; the number declined dramatically. Nevertheless, older patients and those that suffer with liver disease or other chronic conditions seem to be more vulnerable. The authors emphasize that adult vaccinations may help prevent hepatitis A, suggesting that clinicians consider it crucial to vaccinate high risk groups.