Our View: Simple measures can complement hepatitis A vaccine

Published 9:13 am Thursday, November 1, 2018

With two new hepatitis A-related deaths reported in Franklin County, it is clear the recent outbreak of the disease it not wavering.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a hep-A outbreak last year and since August 2017, there have been more than 2,275 cases of hepatitis associated with the outbreak. The outbreak has affected 94 of the state’s 120 counties and has contributed to 16 deaths.

Most recently, two deaths related to hep-A are being investigated in Franklin County.

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Thankfully, no outbreak-associated cases of hep-A have been reported in Clark County, but the issues has touched dangerously close to home with reports in neighboring Fayette and Montgomery counties.

Although people are seeing fewer stories about the outbreak in the media and less frequent warnings from state health agencies, it is still critical for people to continue to take precautions against the disease.

According to DPH officials, the best way to prevent hep-A is to be vaccinated.

“The virus is found in the stool of people infected with hepatitis A and is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person infected with hepatitis A,” according to a DPH press release.

Practicing good hygiene, as simple as washing hands with soap and warm water, can also prevent the spread of the disease. Hand washing is especially important before touching or eating food, after using the toilet and after changing diapers. Officials warn hand sanitizer is not as effective as soap and water against hep-A.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, fever and grey-colored stools, according to DPG.

If symptoms are present, seek medical care quickly to be diagnosed and treated.

“The virus is being spread from person-to-person, primarily among people who use injection and non-injection drugs (including marijuana), people who are homeless, and their close direct contacts,” according to the release. “Although cases in food handlers occur, food or drinks have not been identified as potential sources of infection in the jurisdictions experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks.”

The hepatitis A vaccine, given in two doses six months apart, is available from medical providers, local health departments and many pharmacies, and is covered by most insurance plans.

The vaccinations and some simple hygiene practices can help prevent spreading this potentially fatal illness. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family and others with which you come in contact.