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Hepatitis A Outbreak Lingers in Kentucky, Vaccine Recommended

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Like several other states, Kentucky is dealing with a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A. 

The virus can lead to a potentially deadly liver infection.  It's most often transmitted through fecal matter coming in contact with a person's mouth. 

Dr. Jeffrey Howard, Acting Commissioner of the state Department for Public Health, says Kentucky averages 20 cases of Hepatitis A a year, but the commonwealth has seen more than 600 cases since the outbreak started in the fall of 2017.

"There's currently research going on at the Centers for Disease Control as to why the disease is spreading to a greater degree now than it has in the past, and hopefully we'll have some answers about that in the near future," Howard stated.

Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine, which is recommended for children older than one year and adults living in the areas most impacted.  Starting in July, all Kentucky students in kindergarten through 12th grade must have the vaccine to attend school.

Health departments in ten of the hardest-hit counties are receiving funding from the state Department for Public Health to cover the cost of 1,000 doses of the vaccine.  Those counties include Boyd, Bullitt, Carter, Greenup, Hardin, Jefferson, McCracken, Meade, Montgomery and Warren.

Those most susceptible to Hepatitis A are illicit drug users and the homeless.  Symptoms of Hepatitis A include weakness, abdominal pain, jaundice, and dark urine. Those infected can be contagious two weeks before symptoms appear.  Aside from the vaccine, the Hepatitis A is preventable by thorough handwashing.

© 2018 WKU Public Radio

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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