The Kentucky Department for Public Health is recommending all people in several counties get vaccinated against hepatitis A because of an ongoing outbreak.
Residents of Jefferson, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter and Boyd counties are urged to receive the vaccinations.
There have been 214 cases of hepatitis A reported in Jefferson County. The other counties each have five or more reported cases for a total of 311 cases associated with the outbreak. One death has been reported.
For adults, the hepatitis A vaccine is typically given in two doses, an initial vaccination followed by another shot six months later.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended children receive the hepatitis A vaccine series since 2006. Effective July 1 all Kentucky students in kindergarten through 12th grade must receive two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine to attend school or receive a provisional certificate of immunization, unless their parents claim an exemption.
Residents should consult with their primary care doctor or insurance carrier regarding an in-network provider for administration of the hepatitis A vaccine. For insured people, the hepatitis A vaccine should not require any out-of-pocket costs as long as policies are compliant with the federal Affordable Care Act, according to the DPH. The vaccine is widely available at local pharmacies and health care providers.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice, dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and fever.
The virus is found in the stool of people infected with hepatitis A and is typically spread from person to person contact. hepatitis A often is transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or do not have access to proper sanitation. DPH recommends individuals wash their hands often and particularly after using the restroom or before consuming food. Hand sanitizer should be used only when soap and water is unavailable.
The current hepatitis A outbreak is occurring primarily within specific at-risk populations, including people who use illicit drugs and the homeless through person-to-person transmission, but about 30 percent of cases do not report any risk factors.