Hepatitis A cases are on the rise here
Health officials have seen an increase in the number of Hepatitis A cases occurring in southwest Missouri, including in Ozark County.
“I can tell you that we have worked several cases this year, and I don’t recall any for last year,” said Ozark County Health Department nurse Bonnie Peter. “Hepatitis is on the rise everywhere, really.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the increase “is due to outbreaks, especially among people who use drugs, the homeless, and from men who have sex with men,” Peter said in an email to the Times.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver; the condition is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. All types of viral hepatitis may cause similar symptoms, but they are spread in different ways, and they are treated differently; some types are more serious than others, according to a news release from the OCHD.
Hepatitis A virus is found in the feces, or “stool,” and blood of people who are infected. The virus spreads easily. It is passed to someone when it is swallowed, usually through close personal contact. A person can unknowingly come in contact with the virus on objects or in food or drinks contaminated by small amounts of stool from an infected person. Food can also be contaminated if handled by a person infected with Hepatitis A.
People who get the virus may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage, the news release said. Rarely, Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death. However, it can be prevented with a vaccine.
Anyone who suspects he or she may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus should seek medical help right away. Exposure includes sharing a meal with or having close contact with someone who has the virus. Persons who have not been vaccinated should be given a dose of Hepatitis A vaccine as soon as possible, within two weeks after exposure, to be best protected against the virus. Anyone with concerns or questions about hepatitis is advised to contact their healthcare provider – or call OCHD at 417-679-3334.
“If you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, it is extremely important for your contacts to be treated,” according to the news release. “This will help to prevent spread of the disease.”
Those who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A can notify OCHD with a list of all close contacts they have had during and up to two weeks before symptoms started. “If you are not comfortable providing names of contacts, please have those contacts call the health department for treatment,” the news release said, adding, “The identity of your contacts will remain confidential, and the vaccines are provided free of charge.”