MLHU warn of hepatitis A outbreak among impoverished Londoners

An unexpected spate of hepatitis A cases in the Middlesex-London area is being described by local health officials as a clear demonstration of the health inequities that exist in London.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says it’s seen 15 non-travel-related cases since the start of last month, mostly from homeless and under-housed people and people who inject drugs.

“This is consistent with what has been seen in other locations across North America where hepatitis A outbreaks have taken place,” said associate medical officer of health, Dr. Alex Summers.

In a normal year, the health unit says it would expect to see three cases of hepatitis A that are mostly travel-related.

“It’s hard to understand why these cases have increased right now,” Summers said.

“However, with the virus occurring in other parts of North America and Ontario, I think this has to do with the spread of people throughout our province more than anything.”

Summers says health unit staff have advised health-care providers of the situation, asking them to look for signs of hepatitis A and to provide vaccines to at-risk patients.

“We’ve also been in touch with those in the community that work with under-housed or homeless people on a daily basis,” he said.

“We want to make sure they’re watching for signs of the disease, such as fever and exhaustion and are sending them to health-care providers.”

Summers adds the number of local hepatitis A cases may be higher than what has been reported so far.

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