Officials Want Hoosiers to Get Hepatitis Vaccine as Outbreak Spreads

STATEWIDE -- With a spike in the number of hepatitis A cases across Indiana, health officials are encouraging adults to get the hep A vaccine to further prevent the spread of the virus.

The Indiana State Department of Health has confirmed 77 cases of hepatitis A since January, many of which are related to an outbreak in southern Indiana. The state typically sees fewer than 20 cases each year.

Indiana has required children to be immunized against hepatitis A prior to entering school since 2014. However, anyone may be at risk including those who handle food in schools, hospitals, restaurants, correctional institutions and other facilities that serve large numbers of people.

Health officers say the virus is spread primarily through fecal-oral contact.

"People that would be most at risk would be men who have sex with men, injection drug use the homeless," says Candy Jameson, Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing with the Hendricks County Health Department.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, fever, stomachache, and jaundice of the eyes or skin. It may take 15 to 50 days after being exposed to the virus to become sick.

More information from the Indiana Department of Health....

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable inflammation of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus, which is found in the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A virus is not found in animals. Hepatitis A rarely causes long-term liver damage or death.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Symptoms usually begin 28-30 days (range of 15-50 days) after exposure and usually last less than 2 months. People are most contagious from about 2 weeks before symptoms begin until 2 weeks after. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others.

Symptoms include:

* Diarrhea      *Nausea      *Vomiting      *Tiredness      *Stomach pain      *Fever Dark urine      *Pale, clay-colored stool 

*Joint Pain *Loss of appetite      * Yellowing of skin and eyeballs (jaundice)

How is hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A virus is passed in the stool and people become infected by having contact with the stool of an infected person (fecal-oral route). For this reason, the virus is more easily spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not common. Casual contact, as in the usual workplace or school setting, does not spread the virus.

Who is at risk for getting hepatitis A?

Anyone can become ill, but young children, senior adults, pregnant women, and immune suppressed individuals (such as patients on cancer drugs and with organ transplants) are at high risk for illness. Persons are at risk for hepatitis A infection if they:

- Traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common and where there is little clean water or proper sewage disposal.

- Drink or swallow untreated water.

- Eat food prepared by an infected person.

- Eating raw produce or raw shellfish (e.g., oysters).

- Exposure to the stool or blood of an infected person.

- Persons working with nonhuman primates.

- Persons who inject drugs.

- Homeless people (risk of injection drug use, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions). How do I know if I have hepatitis A? A person having diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours or have jaundice should consult a health care provider immediately. The health care provider may collect a blood sample to test for hepatitis A.

You can learn more about hepatitis A at