A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY Health Department launches hepatitis A prevention plan in wake of state’s declared outbreak

The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) has initiated efforts to prevent the statewide spread of Hepatitis A from expanding to the region. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by a virus.

Dr. Saddler

When infected, the liver becomes inflamed or damaged and does not work properly. Although rare, death can occur from this infection.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017, mainly among people who are homeless and/or using illicit drugs.

Since November 2017, more than 600 cases have been reported in the state compared to an average of 20 cases per year, with six deaths having occurred. The majority of cases have been reported in the Louisville area. In Northern Kentucky, six cases of Hepatitis A have been reported thus far.

Ten Kentucky Counties were identified as under outbreak status in May, with 629 case reported since November, at that time.

NKY Health has sent advisories to health care providers, correctional facilities, food service establishments, organizations that serve the homeless and substance use treatment providers. They also received information on Hepatitis A, how to disinfect facilities, and handwashing posters to display in bathrooms.

“We want to make sure that these groups and the public are aware of the statewide outbreak,” stated Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health for NKY Health, “and steps they can take to help prevent Hepatitis A from getting a foothold here in Northern Kentucky.”

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, unseen amounts of feces from an infected person. The virus also can be transmitted by close personal contact through sex or by caring for a person infected with hepatitis A.

Symptoms of hepatitis A may include: fatigue, fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea, dark urine, pale stool, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) and/or abdominal pain.

The best ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A are: frequent and thorough handwashing with warm water and soap before preparing food, before eating and after using the restroom or changing diapers; cleaning/sanitizing surfaces that are frequently touched (i.e., doorknobs, phones, etc.) with a bleach solution; and receiving two shots of the hepatitis A vaccine six months apart.

If someone is exposed to hepatitis A, transmission of the virus can be prevented if the person receives a single dose of Hepatitis A vaccine within 14 days of being exposed. The vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other clinic sites.

Visit www.nkyhealth.org for more information about prevention. For more information about Hep A, click here.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides high quality public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats. The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, click here.

Northern Kentucky Health Department

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