Over 800 hepatitis A cases reported in La. outbreak

Over 800 hepatitis A cases reported in La. outbreak
The largest concentration of reported cases of the vaccine-preventable illness are in Livingston and Ouachita parishes, with between 121 and 240 cases. East Baton Rouge Parish reported the second-highest concentration of cases, between 61 and 120. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health)

(WAFB) - New hepatitis A cases documented by state health officials bring the total to over 800 infections.

The latest numbers, shown on a database maintained by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), note 818 cases recorded in Louisiana, 813 of which are part of an ongoing outbreak.

Dozens of parishes report three to five infections, with Livingston, East Baton Rouge, and Ouachita parishes reporting the highest numbers, between 61 and 240.

The outbreak is blamed for three deaths.

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WHAT IS HEPATITIS A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is a vaccine-preventable illness that’s easily spread through close contact, as well as from sharing injection and non-injection drugs.

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.

An infected person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear, and even those who do not experience symptoms can transmit the virus to others.

Those at higher risk of getting the illness include travelers, pregnant women, people who inject drugs, and the homeless.

HEPATITIS A PREVENTION

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. Unvaccinated people who have been exposed recently (within two weeks) to the hepatitis A virus should get the hepatitis A vaccine or a shot of immune globulin to prevent severe illness.

Treatment for hep A includes rest, fluids, adequate nutrition, and monitoring from a medical professional. The CDC recommends children aged 1 year and older and anyone traveling or who wants to have an extra layer of protection get the shot.

Click here for vaccination locations in Louisiana.

Hepatitis A can also be prevented through practicing good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS A?

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have hepatitis A. If symptoms occur, they usually appear four weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as two weeks and as late as seven weeks after exposure.

Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days and last less than two months, although a small percentage of people (10 to 15%) can have symptoms for as long as six months.

Sometimes hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in people older than 50 and people with other liver diseases.

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