The Maine Center for Disease Control says an individual who stayed at two shelters in Portland in October was infected with hepatitis A, prompting officials to offer free vaccinations to those who might have been exposed to the virus.
Health officials say the person stayed overnight at the Oxford Street Shelter and Florence House at a time when they were able to spread the virus, which was from Oct. 1 through Oct. 21.
While infectious, the individual also spent time at the Preble Street Resource Center during the day, officials say.
In response, the Maine CDC is offering free vaccinations to those who might have been exposed. The agency has scheduled two clinics at Preble Street, one on Oct. 31, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm; and a second on Nov. 1, from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
They’re urging anyone who stayed at one of the shelters or was at Preble Street Resource Center during that time to get vaccinated.
Maine state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says a case of hepatitis A can become an outbreak very quickly, because people can be contagious for a period of weeks before symptoms show up.
"And so we are being very proactive, and we are going to try and vaccinate anyone who comes in on our vaccination days and who had been at one of the shelters or the resource center between October first and 21st," Bennett says.
State health officials say outbreaks of hepatitis A have occurred recently in several states, including Massachusetts, especially among the homeless and drug users.
Hepatitis A can be spread through the sharing of personal items as well as by sexual contact. It affects the liver and symptoms can range from mild illness to severe sickness that can lead to hospitalization.
Updated 1:34 p.m. ET.