Cabell hepatitis A cases still rising

July 7, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — Cabell County’s number of confirmed hepatitis A cases rose by 29 percent this week to 94 — up from 73 last week and more than doubling from 44 cases two weeks ago, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

In Wayne County, 15 cases have been confirmed, up slightly from 11 last week.

As of Friday, 451 confirmed cases of hepatitis A have been reported in West Virginia, with 259 in Kanawha County alone, according to the DHHR. Putnam County has reported 55 cases.

Men make up 56.5 percent of hepatitis A contractions in West Virginia, which has been diagnosed in residents aged 14 to 82.

These state-wide cases have since been definitively linked to the virus strain found nationwide in an ongoing, multistate hepatitis A outbreak that also is affecting Kentucky and Indiana.

In response to the ongoing outbreak, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department will host a public forum at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at 703 7th Ave. in Huntington. Public health officials will field questions and share their understanding about the risks of the current hepatitis A outbreak.

The department has advised those with liver diseases such as hepatitis B or C, cirrhosis and other similar ailments consider receiving the vaccine, as the disease tends to affect those groups more severely.

People at the highest risk for contracting and spreading the disease include those living without sanitary facilities, people who use drugs and those who travel to areas of the world where the disease is common.

Many restaurants are also taking additional, voluntary measures by immunizing their employees, the department states, though there were no cases of hepatitis A diagnosed in food workers this past week. There have been no cases of transmission due to eating at the affected restaurants.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver and is spread from person to person by the “fecaloral” route, often by inadequate hand washing after using the toilet or changing diapers. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

It can take up to 50 days after exposure to the virus for someone to become ill, but most people experience symptoms within 28 to 30 days after being exposed. There is a two-week window for those who might have been exposed to receive the hepatitis A vaccine. After the 14-day window has closed, the vaccine might not be effective.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.