Real Life Impacts of Hepatitis A Infection
Hepatitis A infection can lead to liver failure and the need for a liver transplant.
The number of acute hepatitis A infections in the U.S. drastically fell in the first part of the 21st Century, largely in part because hepatitis A vaccination was recommended for persons in groups shown to be at high risk for infection and children living in communities with high rates of disease beginning in 1996. By 2006, hepatitis A vaccine had been incorporated into the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommended childhood vaccination schedule. 
Despite a decrease in the number of hepatitis A cases reported annually, anyone who has not been vaccinated is at increased risk for contracting hepatitis A infection. Persons over the age of 50, those with chronic liver disease, and immunocompromised individuals who have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A remain most at risk for developing fulminant hepatitis, a rare but devastating complication of a hepatitis A infection that can lead to the need for a liver transplant, or death.
A few families whose lives were permanently altered by this devastating pathogen volunteered to share their stories. All were part of a 2003 hepatitis A outbreak that was traced to green onions served in food prepared at the Beaver Valley Mall Chi-Chi’s restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania. At least 565 cases of hepatitis A were traced to Chi-Chi’s; 128 were hospitalized and 3 people died.
- “Ben” and ”Lynn” both became ill with hepatitis A infections after eating at Chi-Chi’s. They were both ill with hepatitis A for over a month. Lynn developed Bells Palsy, and Ben missed so much work due to his hepatitis A infection that he lost his job.
”Michael” received a kidney transplant just 5 months before contracting hepatitis A from green onions served at Chi-Chi’s. He was taking anti-rejection medications at the time of his illness, and was more susceptible to infection than a healthy adult. Michael was hospitalized 5 times while infected with hepatitis A, between October of 2003 to June of 2004.Richard and Linda Miller also became ill with a hepatitis A infections after eating food from Chi’Chi’s. While Linda recovered from her illness, Richard developed fulminant hepatitis A, and required a liver transplant to stay alive.