CHFS criticizes hep A report, senators back bi-partisan resolution spurred by it

KY health officials defend reaction to hepatitis A outbreak

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services was on the defensive in Frankfort Friday.

The group criticized media reports that claimed it didn’t act as strongly as it could have when it came to a massive outbreak of hepatitis A across Kentucky, an outbreak that led to more than 20 deaths as of December 2018.

State health leaders said the investigative report didn't paint a full picture of its response, but Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey said at the same press event that the report is part of the reason why he's filed a bipartisan resolution to look into what happened.

"I did not come here today to bash the media," Sen Morgan McGarvey, Senate Minority Leader, said. "I don't know all the ins and outs of the teams and reports submitted today, but I do know I wouldn't be aware of this problem if it weren't for reporting."

Reports allege that an option to spend more money on a response to the outbreak was presented to leaders, but they declined to use it at the direction of Commissioner Jeffery Howard.

Howard and others below him said the investigative report left out positive things the state said it had done, only focusing on the negative problems facing the Commonwealth.

He said overall the response was mis-characterized, and actually was strong. Louisville Public Health officials said they agreed, adding the state helped them significantly - and they had a model response process.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey and Lt. Governor Candidate Senator Ralph Alvarado said they’ve filed a resolution to find out what happened.

"We've got to do better with this as a state," Sen Ralph Alvarado, (R) Winchester, said. "I think speaking with Senator McGarvey, his resolution that he filed today, we're going to continue to work on and try to make sure we get the information right.

Howard said there are around 4,000 cases of hepatitis A in the state right now. He added that was a decreased since October.

These are the total number of cases in the state of Kentucky according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, as of December 2018:

  • Total Outbreak: 3,265
  • Hospitalizations: 1,625
  • Deaths: 21

Howard said he’s hoping cases are declining, but said similar decreases have happened in the past followed by a rebound in other parts of the state.

He said the department is closely monitoring the situation.

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