Hepatitis A: Statewide Outbreak Through February 13th

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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 handwashing 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.

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  • Kentucky’s numbers are approximately two weeks behind. Lake Cumberland District’s numbers are current.

Hepatitis A case rates are starting to subside in Kentucky.  Kentucky now has 4978 cases reported including 2399 (48%) hospitalizations and 61 deaths reported through November 26, 2019.  The Lake Cumberland region has, or has had, a total of 256 cases; 100 in Pulaski, 51 in Taylor, 33 in McCreary,  26 in Wayne, 17 in Clinton, 14 in Casey, 5 in Adair, 4 in Cumberland, 3 in Green, and 3 in Russell.

The majority of cases have been reported among those who use illicit drugs and/or are homeless.  A contaminated food source has not been identified and transmission is believed to have occurred through person to person contact. Transmission of the virus occurs via oral contact with contaminated hands or objects.

Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, fatigue, and fever. Individuals are contagious 2 weeks before and 1-2 weeks after symptom onset. The average incubation period of Hepatitis A is 4 weeks.

Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine-preventable disease and the best way of slowing the outbreak is by vaccinating at-risk individuals.

The Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD) has responded to the outbreak by: 

  • A timely investigation of each case and provision of post-exposure vaccination. If the vaccine is given within 2 weeks of exposure it can prevent illness.
  • Regular communications via newspapers, radio and social media as to the symptoms, modes of transmission of hepatitis A, prevention strategies such as pre-exposure vaccination, and proper hand hygiene
  • Provision of Hepatitis A vaccine to high-risk populations. LCDHD has provided free vaccine and helped immunize those incarcerated in five-county detention centers which were geographically most at risk for the spread of hepatitis A.
  • LCDHD has communicated with and recommended that all clients of residential drug treatment centers be vaccinated
  • Hepatitis A vaccine is available at all syringe exchange programs in the Lake Cumberland Region.