In the wake of rising Hepatitis A infections, the Chautauqua County Health Department strongly recommends everyone who has not completed their hepatitis A vaccine series to do so as soon as possible.
Over the past year, Chautauqua County has experienced a dramatic increase in Hepatitis A cases with more than 50 cases detected, compared to 1-2 cases in prior years. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus, but can successfully be prevented through vaccination.
The virus spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. This can happen from eating at a restaurant as well as sharing food or drink. People at risk for hepatitis A include: people with direct contact with someone who has a hepatitis A infection, people who use drugs, homeless individuals, and men who have sexual contact with men.
The Chautauqua County Health Department strongly advises all eligible persons to get the hepatitis A vaccine, even if they are not in a high-risk group listed above.
“When we monitor Hepatitis A infections in the community, we worry most about this virus being detected in food or grocery workers because of the risk for wide transmission,” said Public Health Director Christine Schuyler. “We have already responded to one Hepatitis A outbreak stemming from a local restaurant, and it’s very likely that we could see another in the near future. This is a serious disease, and any person without immunity is at risk when community transmission is high.”
Two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine received 6 months apart give the strongest protection. The vaccine is safe and effective. The Hepatitis A vaccine has been included in the CDC’s recommended child immunization schedule since the year 2000 and is typically given at 12-24 months.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection can develop from 15-50 days (average of 28) following exposure. It is common for people to spread the virus when they show no symptoms. Symptoms may include: fever fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, or jaundice.
If you have any symptoms contact your healthcare provider and be sure to tell them that you may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
Check with your primary care provider to see if they offer the Hepatitis A vaccine. If it is not available, contact the Chautauqua County Health Department at 1-866-604-6789.