Increase in Hepatitis A Cases Seen in Chautauqua County

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Vaccination Prevents Infection

The Chautauqua County Health Department has been following a recent rise in Hepatitis A cases in the County. So far in 2020, 19 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported. From 2017 to 2019, Chautauqua County experienced an average of one case of Hepatitis A per year.

“When you hear about Hepatitis A, you may think about contaminated food or water but in this country, it is more commonly spread from person to person,” said Christine Schuyler, Public Health Director. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection and the spread of disease and in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health, we are collaborating with community partners to vaccinate close contacts of positive cases as well as people who fall into high-risk groups.”

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). This virus is very contagious and is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. HAV is spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus – even in microscopic amounts – through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink. This happens when an infected person doesn’t properly wash his or her hands with warm water and soap after going to the bathroom and touches objects or food that someone else then eats or drinks. Besides this, the virus also spreads through close person-to-person contact with an infected person and having sex with an infected person.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can be mild and last a few weeks to severe and last several months. They include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

Anyone can get hepatitis A, but the following groups are at highest risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing serious complications from HAV infection:

People who use drugs (injection or non-injection);
People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness;
Men who have sex with men (MSM);
People who are currently or were recently incarcerated; and
People with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C

Anyone experiencing symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact his/her health care provider for advice. If you do not have a health care provider and would like to receive a free Hepatitis A vaccination, please contact The County Health Department at 1-866-604-6789. For general Hepatitis A Information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm.