Hepatitis A outbreak spreads to Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The hepatitis A outbreak associated with hundreds of cases in Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia has spread to Ohio, according to a news release from the Ohio Department of Health.  

Ohio's numbers are not as high as those in surrounding states -- Kentucky reported a whopping 761 cases over an eight-month period -- but its 79 cases are "almost double the number of cases reported during all of last year," according to the release. Community health departments across the state will receive thousands of doses of the vaccine to help curb the disease's spread.

 

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease spread by the bodily products of people it infects. The most common way people contract the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is by unknowingly eating or drinking substances "contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person." Other forms of close, personal contact with an infectee, such as sex, can also spread the virus. 

Most cases of hepatitis A do not become symptomatic until the virus has been in the victim's system for several weeks. When symptoms do a appear, they include fever, fatigue, joint pain and jaundice, which causes the skin and eyes to appear yellow. In rare cases, people with weak immune systems can experience far more serious complications.

Fortunately, hepatitis A is easy to prevent. People concerned about infection should ask their health care provider for the vaccine, which is covered by most insurance plans, and take extra care to wash their hands frequently. The vaccine covers most adults for about 20 years.

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