Jefferson County battling Hepatitis A outbreak - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Jefferson County battling Hepatitis A outbreak

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There is an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Jefferson County, according to the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

The state declared an outbreak on Nov. 21. Between then and last Friday, there have been 115 cases of Hepatitis A reported in Jefferson County.

Officials with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness said they started noticing a few cases last August. By November, the county documented at least 30 cases. Director Lori Caloia said the state of Kentucky usually only see 20 cases each year.

“For the outbreak itself, the at-risk populations are a little bit different than what the CDC’s website would say,” Caloia said.

The department is focused on vaccinating as many people in the high-risk categories, including the homeless and drug users, as possible. Caloia said it’s a misconception that drug users will avoid getting Hepatitis A if they avoid using needles.

“It’s not just IV drug use,” she said. “Hepatitis B and C are spread through IV use, but Hepatitis A is spread more through contact with contaminated surfaces.”

Caloia said the spread of the virus could start once someone with Hepatitis A does not properly wash his or her hands and then touches any surface, object, food or liquid.

“It’s the fecal-oral route,” Caloia said. “So someone has perhaps used the bathroom and has Hepatitis A, they may wash their hands but may have contaminated a surface. Someone else touches that same surface, and they can contract the virus.”

She said the Hepatitis A virus infects a person’s liver. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal or stomach pain, jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes, light-colored stool, dark-colored urine, fever, chills and body aches.

“Hepatitis A is more of an acute illness, typically,” Caloia said. “So you get sick, you get pretty sick all at once. And then you tend to recover and get better pretty rapidly.”

Caloia warned that Hepatitis A can be deadly for those with liver conditions.

On Friday, the Kroger on Dixie Highway in Pleasure Ridge Park announced one of its employees in the produce department was diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Caloia said that worker and the store are doing everything right and working hard to prevent Hepatitis A from spreading.

She said the best way for everyone to prevent the virus from spreading is to wash your hands and get the vaccination.

“The Hepatitis A vaccine is a two-part series,” she said. “So you get the first vaccine, and then at least six months later, you would get the second vaccine.”

Caloia said only one shot will protect a person for a couple years. But after that second shot, she said immunity will last forever.

The department is offering free Hepatitis A vaccines to at-risk groups, including the homeless and drug users. Since late-November, the department has vaccinated at least 5,700 people.

The department encourages others to contact their doctors or pharmacists for the vaccine.

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