Dallas County sees rise in Hepatitis A

April 1, 2002

Food contamination and other sanitary conditions have led to a rise in Hepatitis A cases in Dallas County, a School of Public Health graduateâ??s thesis found.

Kimberly Fulda, a research associate in Family Medicine and a 2001 graduate, studied cases of Hepatitis A in Dallas County, in cooperation with the countyâ??s health department.â??We found the incidence in Dallas County is 1.9 times higher than the United States average, but still lower than the Texas average,â? Fulda said.

The study, which looked at numbers in 1998 and 1999, found that the rate of Hepatitis A was 17.8 per 100,000 in the state of Texas, 16.4 per 100,000 in Dallas County and 8.6 per 100,000 nationwide.The stateâ??s proximity to Mexico, where sanitary conditions involving food preparation are more lax, is partly responsible for the increase in incidence.

Hepatitis A is excreted in feces then transmitted in contaminated food and water. Like other forms of hepatitis, it damages the liver.

The study showed a dramatic jump in the Dallas County incidents of Hepatitis A in 1999, when it rose to 26.5 per 100,000 residents. Fulda said 150 cases were traced back to a single restaurant. Many of the patrons were 50 years old and older, skewing the numbers slightly for that year.One surprising finding is that rates of Hepatitis A are usually lowest among Asian populations, but the Dallas County rates were lowest among African-Americans.

Fulda, who plans eventually to pursue post-graduate studies in epidemiology, said she drew some personal observations from the study, as well.She said it is not yet mandatory to receive Hepatitis A vaccines prior to entering school, and she believes future studies regarding this issue are necessary.â??Personally, I think seroprevalence studies need to be performed,â? she said. â??A lot more children have Hepatitis A, but because they are asymptomatic they are not treated, but they can still pass it on to their parents.â?

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