Because of the recent Hepatitis A outbreak, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is recommending everyone residing in Jefferson, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter and Boyd counties get vaccinated.
So far this year, 214 cases have been reported in the Jefferson County/Louisville area – the county usually has 1-3 cases per year. Meanwhile, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter and Boyd counties have each reported 5 or more cases, for a total 311 cases associated with the outbreak. One death has been reported.
“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness,” Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting DPH commissioner, said in a news release. “DPH recommends all children, ages 1 year through 18, receive the Hepatitis A vaccine, as well as adults who want to protect themselves from an acute hepatitis A infection. In these counties with local transmission of the hepatitis A virus, we recommend everyone be vaccinated per guidelines to help stop this outbreak.”
Dr. Sarah Moyer, Director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness, is also encouraging all residents to take action.
“I am asking you to help us as we encourage everyone in our city to protect themselves and others by 1) practicing good hand washing and 2) getting vaccinated,” she said, adding that a person with hepatitis A can be contagious for up to two weeks before they ever show signs or symptoms of illness.
Since 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended children receive the hepatitis A vaccine series. Effective July 1, 2018, all Kentucky students in kindergarten through 12th grade must receive two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine to attend school or receive a provisional certificate of immunization, unless their parents claim an exemption.
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 and fever.
The disease often is transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or do not have access to proper sanitation. Along with the vaccination, DPH recommends adults and children wash their hands often – particularly after using the restroom or before consuming food. Hand sanitizer should be used only when soap and water is unavailable.
The hepatitis A vaccine does not contain a live virus and is extremely effective, Dr. Moyer said. The vaccine is available at healthcare providers (check with your doctor), at Kroger pharmacies and Little Clinics, and at pharmacies like Walgreens and Rite Aid. People are encouraged to call ahead to ensure that the provider has the vaccine and that there is no cost as long as the person has health insurance. Those who do not have insurance can go online to https://louisvilleky.gov/government/health-wellness/hepatitis for locations offering the vaccine.