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Death suspected from West Virginia hepatitis A outbreak

28 May 2018

The state held a Facebook Live discussion on hepatitis A earlier this week. It is spread when a person ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

The first death in West Virginia related to an outbreak of hepatitis A has occurred in Kanawha County, health officials said Thursday, May 24. The cases are in eight different counties.

Statewide, there have been 106 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Hepatitis A. The illness caused by this virus can be prevented with a vaccination, of either the hepatitis A or immune globulin shot.

An official cause of death has not been released.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR's Bureau for Public Health said in a statement, "I am issuing a strong recommendation to all Kanawha and Putnam County food service vendors and restaurants to have their employees vaccinated for hepatitis A, since national data indicate that drug use among the food service industry is about 19.1 percent".

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Plans for Putnam County vaccination clinics are still in the works, according to the health department.

Kentucky usually sees about 20 cases of Hepatitis A each year. Those counties include Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Greenup, Hardin, Jefferson, McCracken, Meade, Montgomery and Warren. "We hope to have a lot more people", said John Law, public information specialist for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

"People need not panic", he said in a telephone interview. All children under 19 years who do not have private insurance coverage for vaccines, including uninsured and TennCare-eligible children, may be vaccinated through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program by their health care provider or at any local health department.

After exposure, symptoms can occur within two weeks up to 50 days.

Those most susceptible to Hepatitis A are illicit drug users and the homeless. But once symptoms appear, patients often initially report weakness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), and abdominal pain.

Death suspected from West Virginia hepatitis A outbreak