ODH declares statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Health has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors.

Ohio is reporting 79 hepatitis A cases associated with the outbreak so far this year, almost double the number of cases reported during all of last year.

Hepatitis A outbreaks are occurring in several states across the U.S., including the neighboring states of Indiana (138 cases), Kentucky (761 cases), Michigan (843 cases) and West Virginia (248 cases). A number of Ohio’s hepatitis A cases have been linked to these outbreaks.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter – even in microscopic amounts – from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A also can spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.

“Good hand-washing and vaccination are the best ways to prevent hepatitis A in at-risk individuals,” said Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and chief of the ODH Bureau of Infectious Diseases. “If you or someone you know has one or more risk factors for hepatitis A, call your local health department to see about getting vaccinated.”

ODH has provided more than 5,000 doses of hepatitis A vaccine to local health departments. Declaring a hepatitis A outbreak ensures ODH access to additional hepatitis A vaccine through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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