Public health advisory issued after increase in Hepatitis A cases


Sullivan County Regional Health officials issued a public health advisory Friday because of an increase in cases of Hepatitis A.

That advisory comes the day after an unusual outbreak at a Kingsport hospital.

Thursday, Ballad Health said three employees at Indian Path Community Hospital were infected with Hepatisis A, a virus that affects the liver.

Like other gastrointestinal viruses, people can spread it through food and drink or by close contact with someone who is infected.

Ballad Health said people who came into contact with infected employees were notified, and vaccinations were being given to people at risk.

Now the Sullivan County Regional Health Department says others in high risk groups need to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the disease.

High risk groups include those experiencing homelessness, men who have sexual contact with men, recreational drug users, and/ or those who have been incarcerated. 

“The primary root is what we call fecal oral, and its when we get contamination of feces and you ingest it. That’s the short of the story,” said Dr. Stephen May, Sullivan County medical director.  “You get contamination in your hands then you mix it in your food.”

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice.

“Two weeks before you develop symptoms you may be infectious to somebody else and so that makes it a very difficult disease to track down because people are transmitting it before they even know they’re sick,” Dr. May said.

The Sullivan County Health Department is offering vaccines to high risk patients free of charge.

For more information, call 423-279-2777.

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