10 things to know about Louisville's ongoing hepatitis A outbreak

10 things to know about Louisville's ongoing hepatitis A outbreak
Hepatitis A vaccines.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville's hepatitis A outbreak has lasted more than seven months.

Three people have died, while 478 have been infected. And the outbreak has not showed signs of slowing down.

Monday, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness released a list of 10 key things to know about hepatitis A and how to protect against it.

Here are those 10 things in their entirety:

  1. The hepatitis A virus is being spread through person to person contact: Sharing a home, a cigarette, marijuana joint, a drink, or sex with someone who has the virus puts you at high risk.
  2. There have been cases of hepatitis A in every Louisville ZIP code.
  3. While the outbreak is largely centered in people who use drugs (any kind of drug use, not just injecting) and people who are homeless, 1 out of 8 cases report no risk factors.
  4. More than 60 percent of the 478 people who have had hepatitis A have been hospitalized. Getting hepatitis A can make you very sick.
  5. A person can have hepatitis A for up to two weeks before symptoms ever develop. During that two weeks they are contagious and exposing others to the virus.
  6. The hepatitis A virus can live for a long time on surfaces. Disinfecting kitchens and particularly any restroom open to public use with a solution of bleach and water is the most effective way to kill the virus. Specific disinfection guidelines can be found here.
  7. Washing your hands thoroughly and often with warm water and soap is a way to protect yourself from many diseases, including hepatitis A. Be aware that hand sanitizer has not been proven as effective as handwashing against hepatitis A.
  8. For the best protection, you need to be vaccinated against hepatitis A. The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, as well as the Kentucky Department for Public Health, have been encouraging residents of Jefferson and any other counties with a hepatitis A outbreak to get vaccinated for several months. "Our hepatitis A outbreak will stop when the majority of our Louisville residents are vaccinated," Dr. Sarah Moyer, director, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said.
  9. Most health insurance plans should cover 100 percent of the cost of the hepatitis A vaccination. If your pharmacist or healthcare provider tells you there's a cost, contact your health insurance provider to find out where they allow you to get vaccinated at no cost.
  10. If you get diagnosed with hepatitis A and we call you, please talk to us. When someone gets infected with a communicable disease, a nurse or epidemiologist from Public Health and Wellness will contact them. Any information you share is protected and helps us make progress in stopping the spread of hepatitis A.

More information is available by calling 211 or visiting the department's website page dedicated to the outbreak.

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