Hepatitis A Outbreak in NKY, Newport Syndicate Customers Urged to Vaccinate
Hepatitis A cases have reached outbreak level in Northern Kentucky, the Northern Kentucky Health Department announced on Wednesday. The department also urged customers of the Newport Syndicate who consumed food or drink there during a certain time period to be vaccinated after an employee there was diagnosed.
Hep A cases jumped in July and continue to climb in August in Boone, Campbell, Grant, and Kenton counties, the department said. Since January 2018, over 50 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Northern Kentucky. One death has been reported. There were no cases of hepatitis A among Northern Kentucky residents last year.
This is the first time Northern Kentucky has been listed as outbreak status since the statewide outbreak was declared in November. Most Kentucky cases have been in the Louisville area.
Over the past several months, the department has worked to control the spread of the virus and will continue with vaccinations for at-risk populations and advising health care providers, detention centers, food service establishments, and agencies that serve the homeless and people with substance abuse disorders, a news release said.
An employee at the Newport Syndicate in Newport was diagnosed with Hep A. This person handled food at the event center, and an investigation found that the employee worked there while ill or infectious, from July 25 through August 11.
The department said that it is uncommon for restaurant patrons to become infected with Hep A through an infected food handler, but that anyone who consumed food or drink at the establishment during that time period should be vaccinated.
Vaccination is effective in protecting an individual from becoming infected if received within two weeks of exposure to the virus, the department said. If it has been longer than two weeks, vaccination is still recommended for future protection.
In addition, anyone who consumed food or drink at Newport Syndicate during the dates listed should monitor their health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection for 50 days from their visit, and wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. If symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop, they should contact their health care provider immediately and stay at home until given further instructions by their doctor.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine, light-colored stools, and diarrhea. Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) may also appear. People may have some or none of these symptoms. It could take almost seven weeks after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill. Someone sick with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the virus during the 2 weeks before feeling sick and for 1 week after yellow eyes and skin starts. Children often do not exhibit symptoms. Although rare, death can occur from this infection.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.
The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase the risk of infection. Consistent and careful hand-washing, including under the fingernails, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will help prevent the spread of this disease.
Newport Syndicate’s management is cooperating with the investigation and response activities. They have enhanced disinfection of surfaces that may have been contaminated. Employees have been informed to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and to monitor for symptoms and report any related illness to their management. Handwashing and other hygiene practices have also been reinforced with the restaurant management and employees.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017. Since then, more than 1,300 cases have been reported in the state compared to an average of 20 cases per year.
“Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through vaccination and frequent, proper hand washing. Children, ages 1 through 18, are already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis A for school. With the outbreak occurring, we are strongly encouraging the vaccine for all adults. In this way, your entire family can have protection against this infection and help eliminate the spread of hepatitis A in Northern Kentucky,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health at NKY Health.
The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart. The first shot provides short-term protection and the second shot provides long-term protection. The vaccine is available at most doctor’s offices, pharmacies and retail clinics, and people should speak with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated.
People with health insurance or Medicaid should be able to get the vaccine for free but should check with their health insurance provider for coverage information. NKY Health can also provide the vaccine at its county health centers to those on Medicaid and to those who do not have insurance, as well as those who have insurance that does not cover the vaccine.