Hepatitis A Outbreak hits Kentucky

Frederick Owens
May 28, 2018

Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR's Bureau for Public Health said in a statement, "I am issuing a strong recommendation to all Kanawha and Putnam County food service vendors and restaurants to have their employees vaccinated for hepatitis A, since national data indicate that drug use among the food service industry is about 19.1 percent".

The virus can lead to a potentially deadly liver infection.

As Kentucky continues to battle an outbreak of acute hepatitis A, the state Department for Public Health is spending about $340,000 to provide 10 counties, including Jefferson, with a total of 10,000 doses of vaccine, according to the department.

Cabell sits at 14 cases, and Boone, Jackson, Lincoln, Wayne and Wyoming counties having fewer than five cases each. In rare cases, however, health officials say the disease can cause liver failure and death.

In light of the recent, large-scale Hepatitis A exposure in the San Francisco Bay Area, food safety attorneys of the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark, are asking restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily vaccinate all workers against Hepatitis A.

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By comparison, those in the Northeast and Midwest grew on average by 2.2 percent (9,104) and 3.0 percent (3,942), respectively. The Texas capital, which has seen growth cool down a bit recently, falls to second place.

Like several other states, Kentucky is dealing with a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A. This is more common in people older than 50 and in people with other liver diseases. The counties are Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Greenup, Hardin, Jefferson, McCracken, Meade, Montgomery and Warren.

The disease spreads through traces of fecal matter of infected people making contact with another person's mouth, Ray said.

Young children are routinely recommended for the hepatitis A vaccine beginning at age one.

Large hepatitis A outbreaks have been occurring since early 2017 in several other states, including ongoing outbreaks in Kentucky and in, spreading from person to person primarily among people who are homeless and people who use drugs. Anyone who is unsure whether they need the vaccine should contact their local health department or medical professional.

Officials say 629 hepatitis A cases have been reported statewide since August 1, 2017. However, "you could be contagious ... two weeks before you have symptoms, so that tends to be why this virus spreads". Symptoms of hepatitis A include lethargy, yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice), clay colored stools, dark urine, joint paint, and loss of appetite.

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