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Community Health Alert - Hepatitis A

6/6/2018

Mecklenburg County Public Health is set to begin a vaccination program after the County’s five confirmed cases and one suspected case of hepatitis A since April.

There have been five confirmed hepatitis A cases since April 20, which is greater than the County’s average annual number. Since 2012, hepatitis A virus cases have been on the rise in the U.S. Between July 2016 to November 2017, the Centers for Disease control reports 1200 cases have occurred nationally, including 826 hospitalizations and 37 deaths.  Outbreaks have occurred in California, Utah, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, and West Virginia.  Due to national trends and the increase in the number of cases locally, the CDC has determined that Mecklenburg County is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is with the hepatitis A vaccine. Public Health is working with medical providers and community partners to educate residents about how to prevent hepatitis A and to encourage vaccination of those most at-risk of contracting the virus.

The most at-risk groups for hepatitis A are:

  • Those who are household members, caregivers, or have sexual contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis A
  • Men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • Those who use recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Recent travel from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Homeless individuals who do not have easy access to handwashing facilities

 

Residents with insurance can get the vaccine at their regular health provider’s office. The vaccine is available for free for residents with one of the risks (listed above) at these locations Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.:

  • Northwest Health Department – 2845 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte
  • Southeast Health Department, 249 Billingsley Rd., Charlotte

 

Call 704-336-6500 to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins are welcome.

Here are the facts about Hepatitis A:

  • It’s a highly contagious liver disease caused by a virus spread from person to person. The illness can last for weeks to months. Only acute cases are reportable in North Carolina.
  • Hepatitis A spreads through the fecal-oral route, most commonly by forgetting to wash your hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers, having sexual contact with infected partners and eating or drinking foods contaminated by hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis A symptoms include nausea, fever, yellowing of the eyes and skin, dark urine, grey feces, joint pain, feeling tired, loss of appetite and stomach pain.
  • The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get the hepatitis A vaccine and to practice safe handwashing procedures – wash your hands under warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before you prepare food.
  • Again, the most at-risk groups for hepatitis A are people who come into contact with someone who has hepatitis A, travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common, men who have sexual contact with men, people who use drugs (both injection and non-injection) and people with clotting factor disorders.

 

More information about hepatitis A is available at meckhealth.org.