Confirmed hep A cases reach 59 in Scioto County; many more suspected

Staff Report

The Scioto County and Portsmouth City Health Departments are continuing to investigate an increased number of hepatitis A cases in Scioto County.

The Ohio Department of Health has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors since the beginning of 2018.

As of October 28, there have been 59 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Scioto County with about ten cases requiring hospitalization. This likely represents only a small fraction of the true case number given a majority of patients will not present for medical attention.

Most of these cases have occurred in either injection drug users or the homeless, but there have been cases for which no easily identifiable risk factor has been found.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter – even in microscopic amounts – from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A also can be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.

People at increased risk for hepatitis A in this outbreak include:

• People with direct contact with individuals infected with the virus

• Men who have sex with men

• People who use street drugs whether they are injected or not

• People who are incarcerated

• People experiencing homelessness

• People who have traveled to other areas of the U.S. currently experiencing outbreaks

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months. There is no treatment for hepatitis A but there is a safe and highly effective vaccine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that the following persons be vaccinated against hepatitis A:

• All children at age 1 year

• Persons who are at increased risk for infection

• Travelers to high risk areas

• Men who have sex with men

• Drug abusers (injection and non-injection)

• Household or close contacts of those with Hepatitis A

• Persons who are at increased risk for complications from hepatitis A

• Chronic liver disease (Hep B/C, NASH, etc.)

• Any person wishing to obtain immunity (protection)

While this announcement is not meant to cause alarm, the Scioto County and Portsmouth City Health Departments want to keep the public informed and encourage anyone who has any of the above characteristics (including those that just want the vaccine) to be vaccinated.

If you have any of these associated risk factors or would be interested in receiving the hepatitis A vaccine, please contact the Scioto County Health Department at (740) 355-8358. The vaccine is also available through your primary care provider, and many local pharmacies

Staff Report