(CNN) – A highly contagious virus of the liver, which is also a vaccine-preventable illness, has made a resurgence among adults in the United States.
Hepatitis A infections have soared among adults across the U.S. over the last couple of years, by nearly 300 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers at the CDC analyzed cases reported through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System between 2013 to 2018. What they found was an unprecedented spike in the vaccine-preventable illness.
Hepatitis A infections increased 294 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to the study, published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the U.S. has a vaccination schedule that is set up to provide long-term protection against a variety of diseases.
“Vaccines that are recommended in the United States are extensively studied,” Messonnier said. “That’s why I can say that we have the safest immunization schedule that we’ve ever had, and that it’s the safest immunization schedule in the world.”
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver that’s caused by a virus. That virus can be transmitted by eating contaminated food, through sexual contact and through drug use.
Most people who get hepatitis A don’t experience lasting liver damage, but there are rare cases in which the virus can cause liver failure and even death.
Since 2016, there have been more than 8,000 hospitalizations and at least 140 hepatitis-related deaths nationwide.