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Hepatitis A Facts

February 6, 2019
Gwen Crum , MOV Parent

By Gwen Crum

It seems like every time we turn on the local news, there are reports of Hepatitis A somewhere in the surrounding areas. As of March 2018, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources began reporting an increase in Hepatitis A. Here in Wood County, 146 cases were reported in 2018. Those statistics leave many people with many questions: What exactly is Hepatitis A? How is it spread? Am I at risk? What can I do to prevent it? Each of those is a valid question, and I hope to provide some insight.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease which causes severe illness. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting, dark urine and clay-colored stool, joint pain and jaundice. Rarely, Hepatitis A can cause death.

Primarily, Hepatitis A is spread through fecal contaminated food or drinks. It can also be spread when in close personal contact (sex or caretaking) of an infected person.

Those at highest risk are: anyone who has direct contact with another person with Hepatitis A, those who travel to areas or work with those from areas where hepatitis A is prevalent, men who have sex with men, drug users and their caretakers, the homeless population and their caretakers, anyone with a clotting factor disorder and their caretakers, and anyone who works with non-human primates (such a monkeys).

Since Hepatitis A is primarily spread through contaminated food and drink, the best method for preventing the spread of the disease is thorough hand washing. Scrubbing with warm soapy water (not hand sanitizer) is the preferred method. Hands should be lathered for 20 seconds prior to rinsing carefully to ensure all soap and debris is removed from hands. Hands should be dried with a towel if possible and the towel should then be used to turn off the water. If a towel is not available, try using the elbow to shut off with water. If water is not available, please be sure to completely coat hands with hand sanitizer and scrub for 20 seconds. Hands should be washed as soon as soap and water are available. If you are in a restaurant and notice an employee not washing their hands prior to leaving the restroom, report them to the manager.

If you fear you or your loved one are at risk for Hepatitis A, talk to your physician for more information. You can also contact the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department regarding vaccination. For additional details, visit dhhr.wv.gov/oeps/disease/viral-hepatitis/documents/hepAOB/HAV-FAQ.pdf.

 
 

 

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