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Hepatitis A Increase Prompts Temporary Vaccination Clinics

Erik Neumann
Nurses from the Salt Lake County Health Department and the Medical Reserve Corps gave hepatitis A vaccinations at Pioneer Park on Monday night.

A national outbreak of hepatitis A has led to a spike in local cases of the disease. That prompted local health officials to host four temporary vaccination clinics around Salt Lake City.

A white 30-by-30-foot tent is set up on the south edge of Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake. Inside, six nurses sit at folding tables, each with a box of needles and a small red cooler filled with hepatitis A vaccine.

Tara Brunatti is a nursing supervisor in the Salt Lake County Health Department. A man in a white polo sits down at her station.

"Alright, so we’re giving you the hepatitis A vaccine tonight. The first one in a series of two," Brunati says. She then asks if he's had problems with vaccines before or if he has any food or medical allergies. 

Hepatitis A is spread through fecal contamination, usually on food. Nicholas Rupp is a Public Information Officer with the County Health Department. He says that so far the Salt Lake County Health Department has recorded 16 cases this year.

"Our five-year average is four cases for an entire year and only two to this point in the year. So, to have 16 year-to-date, that’s quite an increase and something we’ve definitely been concerned about," Rupp says. 

Because hepatitis A is associated with poor sanitation, the county health department brought this clinic to Pioneer Park’s homeless population, a group that’s at greater risk than the general public.

Rupp says over half of the cases they’ve tested so far have been linked to a large outbreak in San Diego, California.

Sitting with her patient, Tara Brunatti, the nurse, takes the plastic off a needle.

"I’m just gonna lift up your sleeve here," she says. "You’re going to feel a quick poke."

And then, before you know it, it’s done. 

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