Friday, February 23, 2018

Hepatitis A outbreak grows, mainly in Louisville, but cases have been reported in widely scattered counties

Kentucky's outbreak of hepatitis A is growing, as the state Department for Public Health reports 117 cases, 96 of them in the Louisville area. "Outbreak-associated cases were also found in Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Hopkins, Leslie, Marion, McCracken and Taylor counties," said a Cabinet for Health and Family Services news release.

In a typical year, Kentucky has about 20 cases of hepatitis A, the primary risk factors for which are illicit drug use and homelessness.

"A single source of infection has not been identified, and transmission is believed to be occurring through person-to-person contact," the release said. "People are at increased risk for hepatitis A if they have traveled to a country where the virus is common . . . lack access to adequate bathing and restroom facilities . . . are men who have sex with other men [or] have a clotting disorder such as hemophilia."

Other than vaccinations, the health department says the best way to avoid hepatitis A is washing hands with warm water and soap before touching or eating food, after using the toilet and after changing a diaper. Also, handle uncooked food appropriately, and fully cook food.

Symptoms of the disease include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and gray stools. "Persons with symptoms should seek medical care for prompt diagnosis and treatment," the health department says.

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