Kanawha-Putnam hepatitis outbreak linked to cases across US

By:   Fedora Atjeh Fedora Atjeh   |   4/19/2018 05:10:00 PM
Kanawha-Putnam hepatitis outbreak linked to cases across US
Kanawha-Putnam hepatitis outbreak linked to cases across US

An outbreak of hepatitis A cases in Kanawha and Putnam counties has been linked to a multistate outbreak of the illness, according to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

About 28 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Kanawha and Putnam counties since January, the Health Department said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

Health Department officials recently received confirmation that four cases of the illness have been linked to outbreaks in California and Kentucky, said Janet Briscoe, director of epidemiology for the health department. Health officials suspect that all the cases reported in the area are linked to the national outbreak.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since March 2017, outbreaks of the illness have been reported in California, Indiana, Utah, Kentucky and Michigan.

Briscoe said so far one food service worker in the area, an employee at the Cold Spot in Nitro, has been diagnosed with the illness. The Health Department revealed that case last month.

"There is always a chance that we're going to see that in more food service workers or other places where people are employed," Briscoe said.

Briscoe said of the hundreds of cases reported in several states, the majority of cases have been linked to poor sanitation and homeless and drug-user populations.

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver inflammation, is excreted from the body through stool and can live on surfaces for months. It can be transmitted through close contact with someone who has the illness, from food or surfaces or from ingesting particles of contaminated human waste.

Symptoms in adults include yellowing of the skin or eyes, right upper side abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. They also may include loss of appetite, fatigue, dark urine, light-colored stool, headache or fever. In some instances, deaths have been reported.

Prior to the outbreak, hepatitis A cases were rare in this area, Briscoe said.

"This is the first time that I know for as far back as I can remember that we have any type of outbreak for hepatitis A," Briscoe said. "We didn't typically see it because in the U.S. and this region we have clean water, and chlorine water it can't live in."

The few cases the area did see were associated with someone traveling or with a contaminated food or food source, Briscoe said.

"It was rare," she said. "I only remember a few cases, and all were associated with an outside risk factor."

Hepatitis A can be prevented with a two-dose vaccination.

Kanawha health officials urge people with high risk factors, including the homeless, to get vaccinated. Those who have close ongoing contact with high-risk populations should consider getting vaccinated.

"The best advice I can give people is get vaccinated," Briscoe said. "And be aware of what the symptoms are, especially if they have any contact with people who may have it."

Source : herald-dispatch 

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