BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announced Tuesday, December 18 that the Louisiana Office of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections.
UPDATE: As of January 12, 2019, Louisiana has 49 reported cases of HAV infection, three of which are not linked to the current outbreak.
UPDATE: As of December 28, 2018, Louisiana has 34 reported cases of HAV infection, three of which are not linked to the current outbreak. Click here to follow updates.
UPDATE: As of December 21, Louisiana has 29 reported cases of HAV infection, three of which are not linked to the current outbreak.
ORIGINAL: As of December 14, there were 24 cases reported, including the three not linked to the current outbreak. That’s nearly three times the number of cases LDH saw in 2017.
East Baton Rouge Parish and surrounding parishes, including Livingston and Ascension parishes, has fewer than five HAV cases. Morehouse Parish has between five to ten reported cases, according to a map that lists the HAV cases by parish.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says Hepatitis A, a serious and highly contagious virus that affects the liver, started hitting various states across the country two years ago. Assistant Secretary Alex Billioux with LDH says clusters have recently been found in Morehouse Parish, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.
“We are declaring this outbreak as a way to better navigate federal funding so we can partner with communities and really be proactive in identifying and vaccinating folks beforehand,” Billioux said.
Hep A is contracted by consuming contaminated food or drink, through sex, and by being in close contact with someone in the same living quarters.
Those at higher risk of getting the illness include travelers, pregnant women, people who inject drugs, and the homeless. State health officials say they’re partnering with LSU and local government offices to bring the vaccines to those who may not have the means to get one.
“People who get sick will get upset stomach, will get yellow eyes, and that liver dysfunction can get pretty serious rather quickly and people can eventually die,” Billioux said.
Treatment for Hep A includes rest, fluids, adequate nutrition, and monitoring from a medical professional. Dr. Billioux says the vaccine is the best way to prevent Hepatitis A. The CDC recommends children aged 1 year and older and anyone traveling or who wants to have an extra layer or protection get the shot.
The recent increase in cases mirrors the hepatitis A outbreaks happening in other states as well.
HAV infections are often resolved through treatment, but LDH says illnesses and deaths in the current national outbreaks have been higher than usual because of older age and underlying health conditions of the people who get the infection.