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State health authorities warn of spike in hepatitis A

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Virginia Department of Health is sounding the alarm about a surge in hepatitis A cases in the state this year.

Between January 1 and April 22, 45 cases were reported, marking a 132 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018.

Other states have been dealing with hepatitis A outbreaks since 2016. Over 15,000 cases have been reported thus far. The situation in Virginia is much less extreme than in other outbreak states, but “the number of cases seen so far in 2019 is above what would be expected based on historical data,” explained Marshall Vogt, MPH, CIC, epidemiologist with VDH, division of immunization.

It’s likely that the increase in Virginia is stemming from the nationwide outbreak. “Virginia residents were possibly exposed to individuals in other outbreak states and the illness is now spreading in the state,” Vogt added.

What the public should know

Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver and is spread through direct contact with someone who is infected or by consuming food and beverages that are contaminated.

VDH warns that four groups are at highest risk of acquiring the virus or acquiring serious complications from it, including injection and non-injection drug users, people who are or recently were homeless, men who have sex with men and people who are or recently were incarcerated.

Symptoms develop from 15 – 50 days after exposure. The classic symptom is jaundice, yellowing of the eyes or skin. An infected person may also experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine and clay-colored stools.

For the full article, pick up the latest Northern Neck News 5/22/19