Louisville hepatitis A outbreak: How to protect yourself

Hepatitis A symptoms can come and go like a stomach bug. Seek treatment for lingering or more severe symptoms.

The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness announced on May 1 that at least 304 people in Louisville have been diagnosed with hepatitis A since November 2017. The health department has reported at least one death related to the hepatitis outbreak.

Should I get vaccinated for hepatitis A?

If you are concerned, talk with your primary care provider. Hepatitis A immunization can last a lifetime when you receive the two-dose vaccination.

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According to the health department, a typical year has four or fewer reported cases of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A, also referred to as hep A, is a disease of the liver caused by a virus. The word hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, it may not function properly.

Older children and adults typically have symptoms that come on abruptly and can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Hepatitis A symptoms can seem like a stomach bug

“In most situations, an individual doesn’t know they have had hep A,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare. “The symptoms typically come and go similar to acute gastrointestinal problems, or a stomach bug. If symptoms linger or become more severe, that is when the virus causes alarm and people seek medical treatment.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A usually spreads through close contact with someone who has it or consuming contaminated food or water. Health experts stress the importance of proper hand washing.

“This is especially important since the virus can be transmitted to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear,” Dr. Schulz said.

You can be vaccinated against hepatitis A. The vaccine requires two doses given six months apart. The vaccine is now mandatory for all students entering public school in Kentucky.


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