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NKY Health Dept. Working to Combat Outbreak of Hepatitis A

The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) has initiated efforts to prevent the statewide spread of Hepatitis A from expanding to the region, a news release stated on Monday.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by a virus. When infected, the liver becomes inflamed or damaged and does not work properly. Although rare, death can occur from this infection.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A in November, mainly among people who are homeless and/or using illicit drugs. Since November 2017, more than 600 cases have been reported in the state compared to an average of 20 cases per year, with six deaths having occurred.

The majority of cases have been reported in the Louisville area. In Northern Kentucky, six cases of Hepatitis A have been reported thus far.

NKY Health has sent advisories to health care providers, correctional facilities, food service establishments, organizations that serve the homeless, and substance use treatment providers. They also received information on Hepatitis A, how to disinfect facilities, and handwashing posters to display in bathrooms.

“We want to make sure that these groups and the public are aware of the statewide outbreak,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health for NKY Health, “and steps they can take to help prevent Hepatitis A from getting a foothold here in Northern Kentucky.” 

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, unseen amounts of feces from an infected person. The virus also can be transmitted by close personal contact through sex or by caring for a person infected with hepatitis A. Symptoms of hepatitis A may include: fatigue, fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea, dark urine, pale stool, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) and/or abdominal pain.

The best ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A are frequent and thorough handwashing with warm water and soap before preparing food, before eating and after using the restroom or changing diapers; cleaning/sanitizing surfaces that are frequently touched (i.e., doorknobs, phones, etc.) with a bleach solution; and receiving two shots of the hepatitis A vaccine six months apart.

If someone is exposed to hepatitis A, transmission of the virus can be prevented if the person receives a single dose of Hepatitis A vaccine within 14 days of being exposed. The vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other clinic sites.

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