It was August of 2019 when cabaret performer and New Jersey native Angela Frost found her summer sidelined by hepatitis A. About a week after she and a group of friends dined out together, she started to feel sick. Her symptoms began like the flu — body aches, loss of appetite, nausea — and then she developed jaundice.
“I remember going to work and my boss saying, ‘You look yellow,” Frost recalls. “I knew jaundice was a sign of a liver issue and my friend had just tested positive for hepatitis A, so I went to the doctor.”
Frost’s doctor was hesitant to test her for hepatitis A because she was at low risk for the disease. Frost was insistent, and eventually got tested. Her test results came back positive—she had hepatitis A. Four of Frost’s friends would ultimately test positive, including her boyfriend, who almost needed a liver transplant. Frost was so sick she could not work for two weeks and her jaundice remained for a month.
Hepatitis A, a highly infectious virus that affects the liver and can lead to sickness, hospitalization and even death, in some cases. Anyone can be at risk for hepatitis A, as it can be spread person-to-person or through contaminated food or drink. The best protection against hepatitis A is vaccination.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Frost said. “Before this happened, I wasn’t even sure what hepatitis A was, that you could get it from food, or that vaccination was available to help prevent it. I hope that more people can become aware that hepatitis A isn’t just a disease that travelers, or people who are ‘high risk’ can get.”
Since 2016, there has been a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A, with over 39,000 cases reported. Less than 15% of US adults have received even one dose of hepatitis A vaccination, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“After what I went through, I started telling everyone I met about hepatitis A vaccination—from friends in my kickboxing class to strangers at the gas station—it’s so important to me to help others prevent this experience. You have to be an advocate for your own health, and I encourage everyone to talk to their doctor or pharmacist about hepatitis A vaccination as well as other CDC-recommended vaccines that can help protect them against disease.”
For more information, visit CDC.gov/Hepatitis.