CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Health officials say more people have contracted Hepatitis A, than in recent years, after multi-state outbreak.
Hepatitis A is a is a contagious, vaccine preventable infection that affects the liver.
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department says they are experiencing a higher than normal number of cases of Hepatitis A Virus (HAV).
Typically, about one case a year is reported to the Department, yet since early May 2018, four cases have been reported.
Officials want wants residents to know actions are being taking to prevent the spread of the disease.
Dr. Valerie Boaz says, “nationally, we have been experiencing an outbreak and in middle Tennessee. Currently in Chattanooga Hamilton County, we are not experiencing an outbreak but we have noticed an increased number of cases of Hepatitis A compared to our normal rate of one or less a year.”
At this point, the Health Department is investigating current cases, to monitor for new cases, to educate the community on how the disease is spread and how it can be prevented, and to conduct a vaccination program for high risk individuals.
Dr. Boaz says, “the typical symptoms of Hepatitis A, people may feel or get a fever, feel fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain. They may have clay colored stool, dark year in, joint pain and jaundice.”
She says with the multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A there are certain people at high risk, including the homeless community.
She says it can be contracted through the fecal-oral route. “People ingest contaminated food or water they may be at risk from that or if they are in close contact with an infected person more sexual contact with an infected person they would be at risk for getting this infection.”
They are urging people “to use good hand hygiene, washing our hands after we use the bathroom, before we eat. Also before we prepare food, before changing diapers. That is really an important measure to practice all the time and then also we suggest avoiding recreational drug use.”
“Anyone that has any of those risk factors can come here and get the vaccine. We give the vaccine every day already but because of what we are noticing with the increase in number of cases we’ve had and the outbreak of hepatitis A in other areas, we are really wanting to offer this program and get those at high-risk during this outbreak in and protected ”