XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – The Ohio Department of Health said Tuesday the state of Ohio is experiencing an increase in the number of reported cases of hepatitis A since January 2018.

Greene County Public Health said currently, Ohio has 31 cases, reported in the first quarter of 2018. This is higher when compared to four cases in 2017, two in 2016, and five in 2015, for this same time period.

Hepatitis A outbreaks are occurring in several states across the US, including several bordering Ohio.

Health officials say some Ohio cases are associated with outbreaks in neighboring states. Officials say outbreaks have been linked to the following risk factors: contact with a known hepatitis A case; homelessness; IV drug use; and men who have sex with men.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person through contact with an infected person’s stool, or consumption of contaminated food or water.

A confirmed case of hepatitis A includes both a positive laboratory test and symptom onset, with either jaundice or elevated liver function tests.

Greene County Public Health has the following tips.

Contact can occur by:

  • eating food made by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom
  • drinking untreated water or eating food washed in untreated water
  • placing a finger or an object in your mouth that came into contact with an infected person’s stool
  • having close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill

You cannot get hepatitis A from 

  • being coughed on or sneezed on by an infected person
  • sitting next to an infected person
  • hugging an infected person

A baby cannot get hepatitis A from breast milk, according to health officials.

Who is at increased risk for acquiring hepatitis A virus infection?

  • Persons with direct contact with persons who have hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries with high or intermediate rates of hepatitis A
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of injection and non-injection drugs
  • Persons with clotting factor disorders
  • Household members and other close contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate hepatitis rates.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A: 

Some people have symptoms 2 to 6 weeks after they come in contact with the virus. People with hepatitis A typically get better without treatment after a few weeks. In some cases, symptoms can last up to 6 months. These symptoms may include:

  • dark yellow urine
  • feeling tired
  • fever
  • gray- or clay-colored stools
  • joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain in the abdomen
  • vomiting
  • yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice

Some people infected with hepatitis A have no symptoms, including many children younger than age 6. Older children and adults are more likely to have symptoms.