Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is considered to be a less serious form of viral hepatitis, a contagious liver infection that causes liver inflammation and can compromise the organ’s functioning. It is an acute condition that typically resolves on its own and for which no specific treatment exists.

Nonetheless, it can still cause serious illness that requires hospitalization among the estimated 20,000 Americans that contract it each year.

Recent foodborne outbreaks have led to widespread concern and vaccination inquiries. How is hepatitis A being discussed online?

Search Trends

The Trends Section provides an overview of some of the most recent and relevant topics that relate to particular health conditions.

It features a selection of the topics that have the fastest growing Google search interest across the last three months, and reflects the inquiries of patients, healthcare providers, scientists, and others who are invested in the topic.

This is valuable to understand people’s interests and concerns at the present moment, and often include the U.S. states that have the highest interest in a topic. 

Quilt.AI brings these trends to life through an analysis that incorporates both cultural and scientific lenses.

What is trending on search for Hepatitis A

Search interest for Hepatitis A vaccine schedule for adults  grew by 273% in the past 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022

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1. Stick to the schedule: hepatitis A vaccines

Over the past three months, there has been a steady increase in searches about the hepatitis A vaccine schedule for adults, with many of the searches coming from California. 

Hepatitis A goes away on its own and, despite the severe illness that it can bring, there is no specific treatment approved for it yet. At this time, the viral infection can only be prevented through vaccination. 

Hepatitis A has been receiving a lot of attention of late, due to an outbreak caused by contaminated strawberries. (More on this incident in the Culture section below.) The rise in searches is likely due in part to an increased sense of caution and a desire to avoid unnecessary illness, particularly in California, where the outbreak was concentrated. For adults who opt for this vaccine, a second shot 6 months after the first is advised in order to achieve long-term immunity.

2. Prevention is key: avoiding hepatitis A

There has been a steady increase in searches for information on how to prevent hepatitis A infection. At the moment, there are five distinct hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D and E), and they vary greatly in their health effects and transmission routes. The similarity of the naming of these viruses often means that people struggle to differentiate between them.

With news spreading about the illness caused by a recent foodborne (strawberry) hepatitis A outbreak, it is possible that this hepatitis virus was on people’s radars. 

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Search interest for Hepatitis A prevention grew by 163% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

Search interest for How do you get Hepatitis A from food grew by 123% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022. 

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3. Do you really want to know? 

The strawberry contamination that led to hepatitis A viral infections in at least three US states (mainly California) piqued people’s curiosity about how exactly one could contract a serious illness from fruit. Thus, searches inquiring how one gets hepatitis from food peaked around the time the outbreak began.

The unappetizing answer that those searchers will find is that this virus is spread via the fecal-oral route – that is, through food contaminated by feces. In many cases, prevention is complicated as the virus is not easily washed off food surfaces. 

4. Show me what you’re made of: vaccine inquiries

Searches inquiring about how the hepatitis A virus’ (HAV) vaccine is categorized surged throughout May, and especially in July. It is possible that, with the public discussions around hepatitis A infection and prevention, combined with more widespread knowledge about vaccine types because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are curious about the contents of the hepatitis A vaccine and how it works to create immunity. 

The hepatitis A vaccine utilizes the deactivated hepatitis A antigen to trigger an immune response, and can thus be differentiated from the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines that provide cells with the instructions on how to make an immune-triggering protein.

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Search interest for HAV vaccine type grew by 20% in the past 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

Search interest for treatment of Hepatitis A grew by 11% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

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5. Waiting it out: no treatment for hepatitis A

There was an increase in searches related to the treatment of hepatitis A over the past three months, and these searches mainly originated from California, Texas, Florida and New York. This, again, is most likely linked to the hepatitis A viral outbreak that was widely reported in the media.

Those searching will find that there is no prescribed treatment for a hepatitis A infection, as the infection is usually cleared by the body within six months and with no permanent effect. Patients are generally advised to rest as much as possible and avoid stress to the liver.

The exception to this is in cases where recent infection is suspected. In these instances, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may be administered in the form of the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin (IG), which can prevent infection within two weeks of exposure.

Hepatitis A in Culture

The Culture Section highlights emerging cultural trends, new products, and notable dialogue about a variety of health conditions. The purpose of this section is to zoom in on what has been happening within the cultural and professional landscape of a particular health condition–stories that are often missed by quantitative searches.

By featuring influential social media items, patient discourse, professional dialogue, product innovations, and impactful news items, this section illuminates the lived experiences of many patients, while also providing a snapshot of the developments happening around them. 

Here, Quilt.AI offers a detailed and nuanced perspective of what is new and what is meaningful.

1. Sound the alarm on strawberries

Searches related to strawberries and hepatitis A surged throughout March, peaking on the 30th. This was related to an outbreak of the hepatitis A virus that was caused by contaminated organic strawberries. According to the FDA, the strawberries are likely linked to 17 cases of hepatitis A and 12 hospitalizations due to the virus. 

News sources have reported heavily on this story, and social media platforms such as TikTok have allowed this discussion to be amplified. Both the news media and social media users are drawing attention to this incident as a failure in food safety due to perceived widespread corporate corruption.

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@staytunednbc The FDA is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A virus that could be linked to strawberries. #news @mayaeaglin ♬ [News coverage] Inorganic: Flat: 12(1011945) - 8.864

2. HCPs explain hepatitis A on TikTok   

Some HCPs are using TikTok as a forum to educate about viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A. For example, Dr. Gia Tyson (@giliverdoc), a Louisiana-based hepatologist/gastroenterologist has several popular videos about Hepatitis A. She explains that hepatitis A leads to acute infection but does not cause chronic liver disease like other forms of hepatitis, and is typically a self-limiting infection that goes away without treatment.

Nurse Steph (@nursesteph17) breaks down the different types of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, which is valuable for patients, as well as HCPs in training. The nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and pain that hepatitis A can cause may be frightening to those affected, and these videos can be reassuring to patients with the virus.

@giliverdoc Hepatitis A starts off this series on viral hepatitis. It causes acute not chronic liver disease. #hepatitisawarenessmonth #hepatitisA #viralhepatitis #liver #hepatitis #blackdoctors #femaledoctors #medicaleducation ♬ original sound - giliverdoc

3.  Debate: Hepatitis A vaccination among children

Twitter and TikTok are both being used as platforms to discuss hepatitis A vaccination among children.Some people have been questioning whether hepatitis A vaccination, among other vaccinations, is necessary for children.

Some US states have mandates that require such vaccination. Medical authorities such as HCPs have also been posting their views on the subject.

A recent, mysterious outbreak of a more serious hepatitis among children has been gaining national attention since May. At the present time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these debates appear to be part of larger public resistance to vaccine mandates, particularly as they apply to children.

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4. Hepatitis Awareness Month

Twitter has been the main platform to promote Hepatitis Awareness Month, a CDC-led awareness initiative that takes place in May every year in the US. The public dialogue usually highlights the more serious forms of viral hepatitis such as B and C; hepatitis A is sometimes acknowledged as well.

Local public health authorities across the country take advantage of this occasion to spread awareness and to encourage testing through their social media accounts. 

5. Breakthrough discovery

The first drug to treat the hepatitis A virus may be here: A research team from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have discovered a compound that prevents the virus from replicating, thereby preventing liver cell infection. Many are excited about this development, and have been posting news articles about it on social media – including on Twitter and Reddit.