Kentucky is the worst state in the country for the Hepatitis A outbreak and Whitley County now has the second most reported cases of Hepatitis A cases in the state, but local officials are hoping to improve those numbers by giving away up to 600 free Hepatitis A vaccines during a two-day clinic next week in Williamsburg.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison announced during Monday’s monthly Williamsburg City Council meeting that there would be a free clinic on Tuesday, Jan. 22, and Thursday, Jan. 24, at Williamsburg City Hall from noon – 6 p.m. where the free doses of the Hepatitis A vaccination will be given away.
“We are trying to get a little proactive. It is going to be first come, first served. We really want to invite restaurants and their employees to come down. The people, especially the ones who serve the food, are really the people I would love to see come to it,” Harrison said. “We are going to have a window cling that they can put on the front of their restaurant that says, ‘We participated in the Hep A clinic at city hall.’”
The Hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses about six months apart. Next week’s free vaccinations will involve the initial dosage for patients.
Harrison said that participants would have to pay for their own second dose of the vaccine.
“If you have not had your first Hep A shot, come down to city hall,” Harrison said. “I am going to be the first one, who takes one.”
The free vaccine clinic is a partnership between the City of Williamsburg, the Whitley County Health Department and Dayspring Health.
“This vaccination clinic is because we care and we want to try and help as much as we can,” Harrison said.
The clinic is available to Kentucky residents only. Participants must be at least 19 years old to take part.
The free clinic will not be taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
According to a Kentucky Department of Public Health’s report for the week ending Dec. 29, 2018, Whitley County has now had 179 reported cases of Hepatitis A since the outbreak began on Aug. 1, 2017. Three of those cases, which all involved restaurant workers, were confirmed, 97 are listed as probable cases, and 79 as suspected cases.
About 78 percent of Whitley County’s Hepatitis A cases involve people with a history of illicit drug use, according to officials with the Whitley County Health Department.
Only Jefferson County with 646 reported cases has more reported Hepatitis A cases in Kentucky.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person. Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A can include the following: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movement, joint pain and jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination and hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
Hand washing should include vigorous soaping of the hands. All surfaces should be washed including the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. Hands should then be thoroughly rinsed with running water.
Officials warned that hand sanitizer does not work to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.