Hepatitis A: Still Rising for Most of the State

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Kentucky is experiencing the worst Hepatitis A outbreak in the nation. Hepatitis A is vaccine preventable and can be largely prevented with good hand washing habits. In order to prevent the outbreak from spreading in Lake Cumberland, anyone who uses illicit drugs (both injection and non-injection), and the homeless should be vaccinated immediately.

While Louisville has been the hardest hit, new cases seem to be on the decline there. However, for the rest of the state, new cases are still rising significantly. There are 1,094 reported cases of Hepatitis A in Kentucky as of July 7, 2018, 628 hospitalizations and 8 deaths. The Lake Cumberland region’s numbers are also rising, with 11 reported cases. The current Hepatitis A outbreak is occurring primarily within specific at-risk populations, including people who use illicit drugs (both injection and non-injection), the homeless and through person-to-person transmission, however, 20 percent of cases do not report any risk factors. The risk of contracting Hepatitis A at a restaurant is minimal.

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and fever. The virus is found in the stool of people infected with Hepatitis A and typically spread from person to person contact. The disease often is transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or do not have access to proper sanitation.  The Lake Cumberland District Health Department and Kentucky Department for Public Health  recommend individuals wash their hands often and particularly after using the restroom or before consuming food. Hand sanitizer should be used only when soap and water is unavailable. Individuals are infectious for up to 2 weeks before symptoms are evident.

Again, Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness. The Kentucky Department for Public Health  recommends all children, ages 1 year through 18, receive the Hepatitis A vaccine as well as adults who want to protect themselves from an acute Hepatitis A infection. At this time, it is also strongly recommended that  drug users as well as caregivers and family members of drug users be vaccinated.

Hepatitis A vaccine is available at most local pharmacies, health departments and health care providers. For more information about Hepatitis A, please visit www.LCDHD.org.