So far in 2018, there have been 47 cases of hepatitis A across the state, compared to five cases during the same timeframe last year.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A also can spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
People at increased risk for hepatitis A include those with direct contact with individuals infected with the virus; travelers to countries where the virus is prevalent; men who have sex with men; people who use street drugs whether they are injected or not; people with blood clotting factor disorders; people with chronic liver disease; and household members and other close contacts of adopted children newly arrived from countries where hepatitis A is common.
“The best way to prevent hepatitis A among high-risk individuals is to get vaccinated,” said ODH Medical Director Dr. Clint Koenig. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children at age 1 and for at-risk individuals.”
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Ohio has not seen a hepatitis A outbreak so far, which requires at least two cases to be linked to a common exposure source. However, outbreaks are occurring in several states across the U.S., including in neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia. Some of Ohio’s hepatitis A cases are linked to these outbreaks.
Individuals who believe that they are at high risk for hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider or local health department for information about vaccination. People who know that they have been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider or local health department to discuss post-exposure vaccination options. Individuals who experience symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.
ODH has sent a health alert to all local health departments across the state with guidance on investigating hepatitis A cases and identifying high-risk groups for vaccination. ODH also is helping local health departments secure hepatitis A vaccines for high-risk populations.