Acute outbreak of Hepatitis A declared in Kentucky

Acute outbreak of Hepatitis A declared in Kentucky
Dr. Lori Caloia (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Dr. Lori Caloia (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Mary Frances Schaefer (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)
Mary Frances Schaefer (Source: Steven Richard, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky health officials have declared an acute outbreak of Hepatitis A. Thirty-one cases have been confirmed across the Bluegrass, 19 of those in Jefferson County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Shelby, Bullitt, Hardin, Henry, Anderson, Mason, Christian, Madison, Fayette, McCracken, Hopkins and Leslie.

Because the homeless population is one of the groups at risk, the Coalition for the Homeless helped get the word out Wednesday after state health officials put those 19 confirmed cases of Acute Hepatitis A in the Louisville area.

Acute Hepatitis A can be a serious illness and in some cases deadly. The outbreak is genetically linked to one that's been reported in California.

For homeless shelter workers,  Dr. Lori Caloia, the medical director for Metro Public Health and Wellness said, "I would highly recommend that they talk to their healthcare provider to try and get vaccinated."

But when it comes to holiday volunteers Caloia said the vaccine is not necessary.

"I think for the average person going out to help on Thanksgiving or over the weekend they are not at high risk for contracting Hepatitis A," said Caloia.

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For those holiday volunteers, the best plan to stay healthy is simple.

"We're going to tell people if you serve meals to wash your hands," said Mary Frances Schaefer, Coalition for the Homeless Community Coordination Director.

According to Caloia, the virus comes by way of fecal matter that can be spread when someone uses the bathroom and doesn't wash their hands and then touches food. Others at risk are drug users, those who may have contact with someone traveling to countries where Hepatitis A is common, or a child adopted from those countries and men who have sex with men.

Daycares with an infection can spread it through diaper changes, that's why washing hands thoroughly with soap and water can help avoid Acute Hepatitis symptoms that can mirror some flu symptoms.

"Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, jaundice with yellowing of the skin and eyes," Caloia explained. "Some people will have a fever some people will just feel kind of bad in general, achy in general and you may develop diarrhea."

Since Hepatitis A is vaccine preventable, Metro Health officials may try to get it the vaccine to shelters as soon as possible.

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