Pike County may have up to 10 hepatitis A cases

Milford. Pennsylvania declares outbreak to obtain extra vaccine, which the health secretary says is the best way to avoid illness.

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Who's at risk?

People most at risk of contracting hepatitis A are:
Someone who has encountered a person infected with the hepatitis A virus
People who use injected illicit drugs
People who are homeless
Men who have sex with other men
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Monday declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak.

According to the department’s surveillance data, Pike County is not immune. Its map of cases by county shows that Pike has between one and 10 confirmed cases of the liver infection, which is caused by the hepatitis A virus.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said there have been 171 cases in 36 of the state’s 67 counties since January 2018.

“The counties hardest hit by this outbreak are Philadelphia and Allegheny, but we have seen an increase of cases throughout much of the state,” she said. “The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination.”

Vaccination clinics can be found by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH, according to the department’s website.

By declaring an outbreak, Pennsylvania is eligible for federal funds to purchase additional vaccine, if required.

While it is difficult to know for sure why the state is experiencing an outbreak, Levine said Pennsylvania has seen an increase of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV because of the use of unsanitary needles in the opioid epidemic. Hepatitis A can also be spread through needles, among other means of transmission (please see infographic).

Highly contagious, hepatitis A is spread person to person and may be contracted after putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, the department said.

Symptoms usually last less than two months, though some people can remain ill for as long as six months. Symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice. Many people infected do not experience symptoms at all.

According to the department, the average time from exposure to onset of symptoms is 28 days but can range from 15 to 50 days.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to hepatitis A is urged to contact their physician for further testing.

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