MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Health Department is advising everyone to go and get a Hepatitis A vaccine if they haven’t already after seeing an unusually high number of cases in the past year.
In a normal 12-month span, Chautauqua County generally reports 1-2 cases of Hepatitis A. In the past year, there have been over 50.
“This is a serious disease, and any person without immunity is at risk when community transmission is high,” said Public Health Director Christine Schuyler.
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver infection. However, it can be prevented by vaccination.
The virus is known to spread when someone consumes food, drink, or other items that have been in contact with the feces of an infected person. It commonly spreads in places such as restaurants and grocery stores.
“When we monitor Hepatitis A infections in the community, we worry most about this virus being detected in food or grocery workers because of the risk for wide transmission,” explained Schuyler. “We have already responded to one Hepatitis A outbreak stemming from a local restaurant, and it’s very likely that we could see another in the near future.”
Certain groups of people are at a higher risk for contracting Hepatitis A. These include people in direct contact with someone who has a Hepatitis A infection, drug users, homeless individuals, and men who have sexual contact with other men.
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, the Chautauqua County Health Department is strongly recommending that anyone who is eligible to get the jab should take it.
The vaccine works best when it is given in two doses spaced apart by six months. It is considered to be both safe and effective, and it is typically given at 12-24 months of age. It has also been included in the CDC’s recommended child immunization schedule since 2000.
Hepatitis A symptoms can develop from 15 to 50 days following exposure. It most often spreads when carriers of the virus are asymptomatic. Common symptoms may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, or jaundice.
If you have any symptoms of Hepatitis A contact your healthcare provider and tell them that you may have been exposed.
If you have not yet been vaccinated against Hepatitis A, contact your primary care physician to see if they offer protection against the virus. If they don’t, contact the Chautauqua County Health Department at 1 (800) 604-6789 for assistance.