The Sullivan County Regional Health Department wants to do what it can to protect our region from a nationwide Hepatitis A outbreak impacting bordering states. In addition, it’s offering free vaccines to at-risk populations.
It says a large outbreak of Hepatitis A infections have been reported in multiple states including California, Kentucky, Utah, Michigan, West Virginia and Indiana.
SCRHD says many of those who have become ill are the homeless or those who abuse drugs.
Health officials say since the number of cases of Hepatitis A has increased nationwide, as well as within the state of Tennessee, they need to raise awareness of Hepatitis A (HAV) infection.
As a preventative measure, SCRHD says it is providing the Hepatitis A vaccine for free in our region.
Health officials say Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. Symptoms can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
The health department says Hepatitis A can spread when a person ingests fecal matter, even in very small amounts.
“These types of exposures to the Hepatitis A virus can occur by having contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool of an infected person who does not thoroughly wash their hands,” said the health department.
In addition, health officials say it can spread through sexual contact.
Experts say sanitizers may not be effective, but Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine and by thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water.
Hepatitis A vaccine is routinely recommended for (The following is from SCRHD):
- Persons with chronic liver disease, including those with Hepatitis B or C virus (HBV or HCV) infection
- Users of injection and non-injection illicit drugs
- Men who have sexual contact with men
- Persons traveling to or working in countries that have high or intermediate levels of HAV transmission
Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A usually appear 2-4 weeks after exposure and can include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movement
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Children under 6 years of age with Hepatitis A often do not have or show few signs and symptoms or exposure.
Those suspecting that they have symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.
If you believe that you have been exposed to Hepatitis A or at risk for Hepatitis A, please call the Sullivan County Regional Health Department at 423-279-2777 to schedule an appointment.
Persons and healthcare providers with questions or needing more information on Hepatitis A may contact the Sullivan County Regional Health Department at (423) 279-2777.
The CDC also offers more information on Hepatitis A, click here to read more.