A year after declaring Nashville was experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A, the virus is on its way out. Public health officials say the number of new cases has plunged, and they're crediting efforts to inoculate people most at risk of contracting the disease.
Nearly 13,000 people in Nashville have been vaccinated against hepatitis A because they're part of one of the three main risk groups — men who have sex with men, people who abuse drugs or who live outdoors.
"We're beginning to see the results of those efforts," Metro Health director Wendy Long told members of the Metro Council in recent budget hearings. "We can clearly see a downward trend in the numbers of new cases that we're seeing each week."
Hepatitis A attacks the liver. Typically, the city might see one or two cases in an entire year, but since late 2017, Nashville has seen a total of 203. The outbreak technically will continue for several more months, even if there's no resurgence, but some weeks there are no new cases at all in the city.
But while Nashville is where Tennessee's outbreak began, state data shows the surrounding suburbs now have reported twice as many hepatitis A cases. And Chattanooga has nearly as many as Nashville.
Several communities in the U.S. are experiencing outbreaks at the moment, and the problem has been most severe in Kentucky. As in Tennessee, the problem in that state is now under control in urban centers but has spread to more rural areas.