On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced a Hepatitis A outbreak in Jackson County, which may have spread to nearby counties.
A vaccine exists that can reduce the risk of developing Hepatitis A. Health officials say homeless persons, illegal substance users and men with same sex partners are the most at risk to contract Hepatitis A, which can spread easily among unvaccinated persons.
Good hand-washing practices should be observed. Symptoms of Hepatitis A may not appear until 15 to 50 days after exposure and can include fever, headache, fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dark urine or jaundice, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
“We are in the early stages of this investigation, but we need to make sure everyone knows the importance of getting vaccinated and taking health precautions including good hand-washing,” said Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Anyone who experiences symptoms should contact a healthcare provider and use measures to prevent spreading the foodborne illness that can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver that is not lifelong like other forms of Hepatitis.
Some people in Jackson county told us the outbreak concerns them, because they haven't been vaccinated to protect against it, "It is scary to think that is a possibility here," said Jane Jones of Jackson County.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A can live outside of the body for months and is very resilient, which is one reason it is so contagious. It also may not show symptoms anywhere from 2-7 weeks, which also contributes to how contagious it is.
Jones is a caretaker. That makes her even more concerned about the outbreak, "I could pass that along to my mom, or an elderly person who surely doesn't need to have that," said Jones.
The vaccine for Hepatitis A started being given widely in 1995, so if you were born before then and never had the vaccine you need to be cautious of the outbreak.
In 2018 several state saw outbreaks of Hepatitis a related to restaurants. The Alabama Health Department told us that is not the case with the outbreak here, so far.