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What's Going Around | Hepatitis A

The illness is characterized by abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally fever.

I'm Dr. Ryan Stanton and it's time for What's Going Around Extra. Today, we want to talk about an outbreak that's going on throughout Kentucky especially in Louisville but in other cities as well, and that's hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is a viral infection involving the liver. It is actually transmitted via food and drink that are contaminated with the virus. This as opposed to other types of hepatitis isn't typically associated with chronic disease and is not associated with drug abuse or with sexual contact. This one is with food and tends to be more an acute illness.

RELATED: Kentucky's Hepatitis A Vaccine Mandate

The illness is characterized by abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally fever. What we're seeing over the United States over the last few years has increased outbreaks. It comes up in little patches of dozens to hundreds of cases. Right now in Louisville, over a hundred cases have been confirmed. We've also had several cases, other cases throughout the state. This is usually a self-limited disease but occasionally and about one in 20 cases will cause death from liver failure.

RELATED: Former employee at St. Matthews Denny’s diagnosed with hepatitis A virus

There is a vaccine that is available. It was typically used for the military and those traveling but is now being encouraged throughout the United States and is often becoming law in many schools as well. The vaccine is protective and actually having the illness itself does provide lifelong protection that gives future infections with hepatitis A. The most important thing here is prevention making sure that foods are properly cooked and are cleaned adequately especially things like salads or uncooked vegetables taking all the steps.

RELATED: Applebee’s employee diagnosed with hepatitis A, customers may have been exposed

If you start to have symptoms to get checked out and evaluated by your doctor and keeping up with outbreaks that may be taking place in your region especially if associated with a certain store or area where foods are purchased.

Kentucky's Hepatitis A Vaccine Mandate

The Commonwealth of Kentucky announced a new regulation that all school children must have their Hepatitis A vaccination by the beginning of school in 2018.

RELATED: Hepatitis A outbreak continues in several Kentucky counties

This is important to talk about now because the vaccine is a 2 shot series, six months apart, meaning that if your child has not received the vaccine, they will need to get the first injection by the end of January to meet the deadline for the start of school.

The good news is that most children 10 years and younger have already had the vaccine as part of their childhood immunization schedule. Those in middle school and high school are the most likely to not have had the vaccine thus far.

The Fayette County Health Department advised that the records must be on file by the start of school, but that if a child has had one of the injections in the past and it is more than 6-months, they only have to get that second injection to be compliant.

A representative from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services told us that a child that only has one of the vaccinations will be allowed to start school next fall with a provisional certificate that expires after the 6 months gap between the first and second shot.

So, parents and guardians need to be getting that immunization list out and checking it twice, to make sure your child is on the nice list for school next year.

Join the conversation on FB at the WGA page and @everydaymed on Twitter. I’m Dr. Ryan Stanton, and that’s a What’s Going Around Extra.


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