Statewide hepatitis A outbreak continues, more deaths reported


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Department for Public Health continues its push for people to get the hepatitis A vaccine as soon as possible to avoid getting the virus and spreading the disease.

Since the outbreak began in August 2017, reported cases continue to rise and have now been recorded in 103 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, according to the state.

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High risk groups include people who use illicit drugs, close contacts of illicit drug users and the homeless.

About 80-percent of the cases in the current outbreak are people in the high risk groups, according to the Department for Public Health (DPH).

As of January 26, 2019, a total of 3,819 cases have been reported in Kentucky due to the outbreak.  There have been 40 known deaths and 1,862 hospitalizations, according to the state.

To date, 80 counties have reported five or more cases, meaning they meet the threshold for what is considered an outbreak of the virus.

Boyd, Carter, Fayette, Floyd, Jefferson, Kenton, Laurel, Madison and Whitley counties report 100 or more cases.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease of the liver, which causes inflammation of the organ and affects its ability to function.

Signs and symptoms of the disease include nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), clay-colored bowel movements, dark-colored urine and abdominal discomfort.

Signs and symptoms usually appear 2-to-4 weeks after exposure, but may occur up to 7 weeks after exposure.  Children under 6 years of age often show few signs and symptoms.

Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of infected people, and is usually spread person-to-person when infected people do not properly wash their hands or do not have access to proper sanitation.

Transmission typically occurs when a person ingests infected fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with contaminated objects, food or drinks.