MEIGS COUNTY— The Ohio Department of Health considers exposure to Hepatitis A through food service workers or eating at restaurants a low risk, according to the Meigs County Health Department.
“The Ohio Department of Health guidance states that employment as a food service worker or eating at a restaurant DOES NOT place you in a high risk group for getting Hepatitis A,” stated Leanne Cunningham and Courtney Midkiff from the Meigs County Health Department.
According to a Hepatitis A Statewide Community Outbreak news release on Jan. 22, 2019, from the Ohio Department of Health, the agency and affected local health departments are investigating an increased number of hepatitis A cases in Ohio. ODH has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors since the beginning of 2018. Outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring in several states across the U.S., including neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia.
As of Feb. 25, Meigs County had a total of 8 cases since the investigations began in early 2018. In neighboring counties, Athens has had 38 cases, Gallia 24 cases, Vinton 10 cases and Washington 28 cases. There have been a total of 1,819 cases in Ohio.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A can also be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
People at increased risk for hepatitis A in this outbreak include:
- People with direct contact with individuals infected with the virus
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use street drugs whether they are injected or not
- People who are incarcerated
- People experiencing homelessness
- People who have traveled to other areas of the U.S. currently experiencing outbreaks
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months.
People who believe that they are at high risk for hepatitis A infection should contact their healthcare provider or local health department for information about vaccination. People who know that they have been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider or local health department to discuss post-exposure vaccination options. Individuals who experience symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.
For more information about Hepatitis A and vaccines for high-risk individuals contact the Meigs County Health Department at 740-992-6626.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.