General Information about Hepatitis A

There is a hepatitis A outbreak in Louisville.  The outbreak was declared in November of 2017.  

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, Hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Symptoms of hepatitis A can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes.)

The people at highest risk of getting hepatitis A in Louisville are people who use illegal drugs (ANY drug use, not just injection drug use), people who are homeless or have insecure housing or people who work or live in close contact with those populations. However, because there are a growing number of cases statewide, the Kentucky Department for Public Health has recommended that anyone living in Louisville/Jefferson County, or any other Kentucky county protect themselves by getting the hepatitis A vaccine and practicing good hand washing with warm soap and water.

Hepatitis A infection is associated with poor sanitation and hygiene and is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and drink or through direct contact with an infectious person.

The hepatitis A virus can live for months in a contaminated environment, particularly in the absence of good sanitation.  It can be easily spread if someone with the virus shares a cigarette or marijuana joint with others, through sharing of towels, touching contaminated door handles or countertops and table surfaces. A person with the virus is contagious for up to 2 weeks before showing symptoms.   

The most important ways to prevent the spread of the virus are: 1) good thorough handwashing and 2) vaccination.

For more detailed information on hepatitis A, visit https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#E10

You can also learn more about Kentucky's hepatitis A outbreak here. 

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