Mahoning and Trumbull counties have not reported any new hepatitis cases this year


Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

Despite a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A reported by the Ohio Department of Health, Mahoning and Trumbull counties have not reported any new cases this year.

County officials, however, are urging vaccinations for those at high risk of contracting the disease.

“It is not an outbreak in our county,” Patricia Sweeney, Mahoning County health commissioner, said. “We have outreach to all our [outpatient centers] to make them aware there is an active outbreak in the state and to make sure they’re screening [patients] first for symptomology ... and giving them access to the vaccine.”

Eighty-two cases had been reported statewide as of last week – about twice as many reported in all of 2017 – but none of them fatal, according to ODH.

Neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia have reported close to 2,000 new cases this year, many of which are linked to Ohio outbreaks. Cuyahoga, Summit and Guernsey counties have reported a combined six cases so far this year, according to the ODH website.

Intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men and the homeless or incarcerated are among the most at-risk groups identified among the state’s outbreak cases, according to ODH.

“This is definitely something those individuals in those at-risk groups should be paying attention to and be vaccinated [against],” Sweeney said, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend the vaccine for adults and children.

Those diagnosed with one type of hepatitis are more susceptible to others, said Sandy Swann, Trumbull County Health Department nursing director.

ODH is making additional doses of the vaccine available to local health departments that plan to target those high-risk groups through needle exchanges or other community-outreach programs, Swann said, though there are no such programs in Trumbull or Mahoning counties.

“What we basically are doing is putting the information out on social media to be proactive – letting our community know what it is, how to prevent it and to contact us if they have any questions and concerns,” Swann said.

Uninsured or underinsured residents can receive the hepatitis vaccine through both counties’ health departments, officials said.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread when a person ingests fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks – even in microscopic amounts, according to ODH. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice, along with mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months, according to ODH.

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