OAK HILL, WV (WOAY) – Since March 2018, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has reported an increase in the number of confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A virus. This increase in cases has primarily been among injection and non-injection drug users, homeless or mobile individuals, and those who have been recently incarcerated. Viral sequencing has linked cases from Kentucky and California.
Here is southern West Virginia, only three counties have reported Hepatitis A cases and each county it is less that 5 cases.
Raleigh, Wyoming, and Greenbrier County have reported less than 5 cases each per county.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death.
How is hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sexual contact or caring for someone who is ill.
Who is at risk for hepatitis A?
Although anyone can get hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk such as:
• Persons who use injection and non-injection drug users
• Homeless persons
• Persons who had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
• Men who have sexual encounters with other men
• People who have come into close person-to-person contact with an infected person
• People with ongoing, close contact with people who are homeless or people who use injection
and non-injection drugs
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
What should I do if I think I have been exposed to hepatitis A?
If you think you were exposed to hepatitis A, call or visit a health professional right away since hepatitis A can be easily spread 1 to 2 weeks before symptoms show.
What should I do if I ate a restaurant where an employee has been diagnosed with hepatitis A?
The risk of contracting hepatitis A from eating at a restaurant is extremely low, even during outbreak situations. When a food service worker diagnosed with hepatitis A, he or she is immediately excluded from work and not allowed to return without a release from his or her medical provider. Additionally, all employees at the establishment are vaccinated, and disinfection and sanitation practices are followed.
Can hepatitis A be prevented?
Yes. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is with the hepatitis A vaccine. Practicing good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food – plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A vaccines are available at your local Health Department.
For the latest information you can always visit: https://dhhr.wv.gov/oeps/disease/viral-hepatitis/pages/hepA_outbreak.aspx#vac