Hepatitis A

Updated March 3, 2019

Hepatitis A Alert

The number of hepatitis A cases in Northern Kentucky (Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties) jumped in July and continued to climb in August, putting Northern Kentucky into outbreak status for the first time since a statewide outbreak was declared in November 2017. The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) strongly encourages a hepatitis A vaccination for all Northern Kentucky residents.

Since January 2018, more than 280 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Northern Kentucky. Three deaths have been reported. There were no cases of hepatitis A among Northern Kentucky residents in 2017.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in November 2017. Since then, more than 4,000 cases have been reported in the state (compared to an average of 20 cases per year). There have been 587 confirmed cases and 43 deaths reported.

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.

What is Hepatitis A?

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.  Any person who believes they may have symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider. Click here for a quick reference about Hepatitis A.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

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.

How do I prevent the spread of Hepatitis A?

Best methods to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A include:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap before preparing food, before eating, and after using the restroom or changing diapers.  Click here for information on proper hand washing techniques.
  • Good cleaning is extremely important. Click here for information about how to properly clean and disinfect for hepatitis A.
  • Review your vaccination records and consider being vaccinated against Hepatitis A. Vaccine is available at doctor’s offices, local pharmacies, or other clinic sites.
  • If exposed, transmission of hepatitis A can be prevented if a person gets vaccinated within 14 days of exposure.

Where Can I Get Vaccinated?

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/.

For more information, go to https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm.