BROOKSVILLE — Bracken County has seen a rise in hepatitis A cases recently.
According to Tony Cox, Bracken County Health Department director, since Jan. 1, there have been five cases identified in the county.
“We’d not had any cases and then, suddenly, there are five,” he said. “We’re investigating the rise in cases, but there are a lot of activities that, if people are involved in, we encourage them to get vaccinated. Drug activity, smoking after one another – if you’re sharing a needle or a cigarette, it can raise your chances of being exposed. Of course, it’s not exclusive to that. At the core, hepatitis A is a fecal-oral passing disease.”
Amy Mains, the BCHD preparedness coordinator, said she encourages everyone to wash their hands and get vaccinated.
“We need everyone to be aware of this,” she said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, we encourage it. Kentucky schools even require it.”
Mains said some of the symptoms of hepatitis A includes fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine, pale or clay colored stool.
“There have been some deaths in Kentucky, but none in Bracken County,” she said. “If you’re showing symptoms, seek medical evaluation. Hepatitis A is not treatable once it’s contracted, but it is preventable. If you contract it, you’ll have to go through the symptoms.”
According to Mains, people who contract Hepatitis A are most contagious from two weeks before symptoms begin showing to one week after symptoms disappear.
“Not everyone who is infected will have all the symptoms,” she said. Symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus with a range of 15-50 days. Previous infection with hepatitis A provides immunity for the rest of a person’s life. People that are exposed to hepatitis A may be given vaccine or immune globulin within 14 days of exposure to prevent infection.”
Mains said people of all ages should be vaccinated.
“People who should be vaccinated for hepatitis A include all children at age 1; people who are experiencing homelessness; users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not; men who have sexual encounters with other men; people with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A; travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common; people with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C; people with clotting-factor disorders; and family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where hepatitis A is common,” she said.
In Mason County, six cases have been diagnosed since Jan. 1, according to Pam Brant, Mason County Health Department clinical coordinator.
“Since the outbreak began in early 2017, we’ve had 13 cases in Mason County,” she said. “Six have been diagnosed since Jan. 1.”
Brant said she also encourages the vaccination.
“It’s totally preventable,” she said. “Wash your hands, practice good hygiene, vaccinate yourself. It will prevent the possible spread of the disease.”
Brant said the vaccine is covered by most insurances. The vaccine is offered at local health departments, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, as of December 2018, Robertson County had one case, Lewis County had 11 cases and Fleming County had four cases.
Brown County, Ohio had four cases and Adams County, Ohio had two cases, as of Jan. 22, 2019, according to the Ohio Department of Health.