OHIO VALLEY — Mason, Gallia, and Meigs County health department officials reported there is currently no immediate threat from the spreading Hepatitis A outbreak.
The Hepatitis A outbreak, which originated in the Ashland-Boyd area in late March, early April, has since spread to the Cabell-Huntington area.
The Health Department officials of Mason, Gallia, and Meigs counties have explained more calls of concern from residents regarding Hepatitis A have been coming in.
Jennifer Thomas, nursing director and administrator at the Mason County Health Department, recommended individuals concerned with the spread of the disease to their area need to regularly wash their hands as the disease is communicable. Also, she said any individuals concerned with possible exposure to the disease should consult with their physicians on how to pursue the issue. The Hepatitis A vaccination is only effective up to two weeks after exposure.
For preventative measures, Thomas said some restaurants in the local area have started requiring their employees to get the Hepatitis A vaccination.
In regards to Ohio, Courtney Midkiff, administrator at the Meigs County Health Department, shared information she received from Mikie Strite, Regional EPI.
Strite reported, “Currently, The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is strongly recommending the following groups to get the hepatitis A vaccine: men who have sex with men, persons who inject drugs and person who use illegal non-injection drugs. These are the highest risk groups for transmission of hepatitis A. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) does not recommend routine hepatitis A vaccination for food workers.”
Midkiff stated a Hepatitis A case was recently reported in Ross County, Ohio.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, Hepatitis A is a communicable disease of the liver caused by the Aepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.
The CDC explained Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with Hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within two months of infection. Most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.
The CDC said if symptoms occur, they usually start appearing four weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as two and as late as seven weeks after exposure. The symptoms usually develop over a period of several days and usually last less than two months, although some people (10-15 percent) with Hepatitis A can have symptoms for as long as six months.
The CDC explained unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed recently, within two weeks, to the Hepatitis A virus should get the Hepatitis A vaccine or a shot of immune globulin to prevent severe illness. In order to treat the symptoms of Hepatitis A, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids; however, some people will need medical care in a hospital. It can take a few months before people with Hepatitis A begin to feel better.
The Mason County Health Department currently has Hepatitis A vaccines for children 18 and under. The Gallia County and Meigs County Health Departments have the Hepatitis A vaccines available for both children 18 and under and adults.
Mason, Gallia, and Meigs local pharmacies can also provide Hepatitis A vaccinations when they have the vaccinations in stock.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.