MEDIA CONTACT: Darcy Schwass
NKY Health media line: 859-462-7090
August 15, 2018
Northern Kentucky Joins Statewide Hepatitis A Outbreak
Vaccinations and Handwashing Advised as Food Service Worker Diagnosed
The number of hepatitis A cases in Northern Kentucky (Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties) jumped in July and continues to climb in August, putting Northern Kentucky into outbreak status for the first time since a statewide outbreak was declared last November. The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) strongly encourages hepatitis A vaccination for all Northern Kentucky residents.
NKY Health has been implementing efforts to control the spread of the virus over the past several months and will continue to expand its efforts with vaccinating the at risk populations and advising health care providers, detention centers, food service establishments, and agencies that serve the homeless and people with substance use disorders.
Of particular concern is a case of hepatitis A that has been diagnosed in an employee who handled food at the Newport Syndicate (18 East 5th Street, Newport, KY). An investigation found that this employee worked during a period of time when he/she was ill or infectious, which included the dates of July 25 through August 11, 2018.
While it is relatively uncommon for restaurant patrons to become infected with the hepatitis A virus due to an infected food handler, anyone who consumed food or drink at Newport Syndicate during the stated time period is advised to get a hepatitis A vaccination. This is recommended whether the patrons live in Northern Kentucky or elsewhere.
Vaccination is effective in protecting an individual from becoming infected if received within two weeks of exposure to the virus. If it has been longer than two weeks,vaccination is still recommended for future protection.
In addition, anyone who consumed food or drink at Newport Syndicate during the dates listed should monitor their health for symptoms of hepatitis A infection for 50 days from their visit; wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. If symptoms of hepatitis A infection develop, they should contact their healthcare provider immediately and stay at home until given further instructions by their doctor.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine, light-colored stools and diarrhea. Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) may also appear. People may have some or none of these symptoms. It could take almost seven weeks after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill. Someone sick with hepatitis A is most likely to spread the virus during the 2 weeks before feeling sick and for 1 week after yellow eyes and skin starts. Children often do not exhibit symptoms. Although rare, death can occur from this infection.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase the risk of infection. Consistent and careful hand washing, including under the fingernails, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, along with vaccination of anyone at risk of infection, will help prevent the spread of this disease.
Newport Syndicate’s management is cooperating with the investigation and response activities. They have enhanced disinfection of surfaces that may have been contaminated. Employees have been informed to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and to monitor for symptoms and report any related illness to their management. Handwashing and other hygiene practices have also been reinforced with the restaurant management and employees.
Since January 2018, over 50 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Northern Kentucky. One death has been reported. There were no cases of hepatitis A among Northern Kentucky residents last year.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017. Since then, more than 1,300 cases have been reported in the state compared to an average of 20 cases per year.
“Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through vaccination and frequent, proper hand washing. Children, ages 1 through 18, are already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis A for school. With the outbreak occurring, we are strongly encouraging the vaccine for all adults. In this way, your entire family can have protection against this infection and help eliminate the spread of hepatitis A in Northern Kentucky” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health at NKY Health.
The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart. The first shot provides short-term protection and the second shot provides long-term protection. The vaccine is available at most doctor’s offices, pharmacies and retail clinics, and people should speak with their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated.
People with health insurance or Medicaid should be able to get the vaccine for free but should check with their health insurance provider for coverage information. NKY Health can also provide the vaccine at its county health centers to those on Medicaid and to those who do not have insurance, as well as those who have insurance that does not cover the vaccine. Health center locations and phone numbers can be found at https://nkyhealth.org/individual-or-family/county-health-centers/.
Any person who believes they may have symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider. Additional information regarding Hepatitis A can be found at www.nkyhealth.org.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides high quality public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats. The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, visit www.nkyhealth.org.