If you work with the general public or in the food industry, then you should get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and remember to wash your hands thoroughly.
This is the best way of preventing the spread of the disease, said Whitley County Health Department Public Health Director Martha Steele.
Whitley County ranks fourth in the state with 104 cases of the disease being reported so far in the county during this current outbreak, Steele said.
The outbreak in Kentucky was first reported in the Louisville area in early August 2017, and has since spread to other parts of the state, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health.
Due to the ongoing outbreak of Hepatitis A, the Whitley County Health Department and Baptist Health Corbin are encouraging the vaccination for everyone residing in the tri-county area.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable communicable disease of the liver 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, according to a Baptist Health Corbin news release.
There can be a significant delay between when someone is exposed to the virus and when they show symptoms.
“Due to the delay in symptom presentation, every person should receive a vaccine as soon as possible,” Steele noted.
Signs and symptoms usually appear two-four weeks after exposure, although the symptoms may occur two-seven weeks after exposure. Children under six years of age with Hepatitis A often do not have or show few signs and symptoms.
Vaccination is an effective way to prevent Hepatitis A. The first dose of vaccine is given to children at 12-23 months of age and the second dose six months later.
Children that are not vaccinated at one year of age are recommended to receive two doses at least six months apart. Hepatitis A vaccine is not recommended for children under one year old. Adults who have not had two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine and have not had Hepatitis A can receive the vaccine.
Pregnant women can also receive the Hepatitis A vaccine. Those unsure of their vaccination status, who have not received the vaccine, or who have had only one dose should consult their healthcare provider.
“The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination and hand washing. Hand washing especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food, plays an important role in preventing the spread of the virus,” advised Baptist Health Corbin President Anthony Powers, who is a registered nurse.
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.
Steele warned that hand sanitizer does not work to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.
“The only thing that works for Hepatitis A is soap and water and thorough hand washing,” Steele added.
Baptist Health Pharmacy, Whitley County Health Department and other local pharmacies offer the Hepatitis A series vaccine; some people may qualify for a free or discounted vaccine.
Those suspecting that they have symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.
More information about Hepatitis A is available online from the Centers for Disease Control and Information at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm.