AP NEWS

Public Hep A forum planned for Thursday

July 17, 2018

HUNTINGTON — In response to the ongoing hepatitis outbreak, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department will host a public forum at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at 703 7th Ave. in Huntington.

Public health officials will field questions from the audience and share their understanding about the risks of the ongoing outbreak.

“It’s just time that at this point in the outbreak that we let everyone know we’re still working on it on a regular basis monitoring it in the county, and to make sure the public knows we’re doing everything we can to prevent a worst case scenario,” said Elizabeth Adkins, CHHD director of health and wellness and public information officer.

On hand to answer questions will be physician director Dr. Michael Kilkenny, nursing director Kathleen Napier, regional epidemiologist Tonya Chaney, and local epidemiologist Kim Lockwood. The team will be open to answering any of the public’s questions, such as how the disease is spread, how to prevent the disease, where to get the vaccine and any concerns regarding eating out at restaurants.

The meeting will be hosted in the department’s second floor conference room.

As of Friday, 114 hepatitis A cases were reported in Cabell County, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. In Wayne County, 20 cases have been confirmed.

As of last week’s figures, 540 confirmed cases of hepatitis A have been reported in West Virginia, with 297 in Kanawha County alone, according to the DHHR. Putnam County has reported 60 cases.

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

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 “fecal-oral” route, often by inadequate handwashing 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 at @BishopNash.