The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and affected local health departments are investigating an increased number of hepatitis A cases in Ohio. ODH has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors since the beginning of 2018. Outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring in several states across the U.S., including neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia.
According to the Adams County Health Department, the department has seen a major increase in the number of Hepatitis A cases within the county. In 2018, the department investigated five cases. So far, in 2019 seven cases have been reported.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter even in microscopic amounts – from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person.
Within the last few months, several restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area have announced that workers have been diagnosed with hepatitis A. This has many people asking, “Are Adams County residents safe while eating at restaurants?”
Jason Work, Deputy Health Commissioner says, “None of the Hepatitis A cases in Adams County have been associated with food industry employees. Ohio Administrative Code requires that any employee that is symptomatic of any infectious or communicable disease be excluded from work while displaying symptoms. There are typically two potential routes of exposure from food operations; infected food handlers and infected food sources/ items. It is important to remember; most people do not contract Hepatitis A from someone at a restaurant.”
Hepatitis A can also be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
People at increased risk for hepatitis A in this outbreak include: People with direct contact with individuals infected with the virus. Men who have sex with men, People who use street drugs whether they are injected or not, People who are incarcerated, People experiencing homelessness, People who have traveled to other areas of the U.S. currently experiencing outbreaks. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months.
People who believe that they are at high risk for hepatitis A infection should contact their healthcare provider or local health department for information about vaccination. People who know that they have been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider or local health department to discuss post-exposure vaccination options. Individuals who experience symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.
For more information, the Adams County Health Department can be contacted at 937-544-5547.