Wilkes County is seeing a slight increase in Hepatitis A cases in the recent months, related to an ongoing statewide and national outbreak. Multiple states have reported large outbreaks of Hepatitis A associated with person-to-person transmission. Cases have occurred primarily among three risk groups: (1) persons who use injection or non-injection drugs; (2) persons who are experiencing homelessness; and (3) men who have sex with men. North Carolina is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A, though not the same scale as some other states.
Since 2018, Wilkes County has had a total of 27 cases, with a total of 19 so far in 2021. In honor of Hepatitis Awareness Month, Wilkes Health is urging anyone who wants the Hepatitis A vaccine to call and schedule and appointment. The hepatitis vaccine is safe and proven effective.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A can be spread from close personal contact with an infected person. Close contact such as through having sex, caring for someone who is ill or using drugs with others. Hepatitis A can also be spread from ingesting the virus from contaminated food. Contaminated of food or drink with the hepatitis A virus can happen at any point. Growing, harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking. Contamination of food and water happens more often in countries where hepatitis A is common. Although uncommon, foodborne outbreaks have occurred in the United States from people eating contaminated fresh and frozen imported food products.
The Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. The hepatitis A virus is spread when someone ingests the virus, usually through person-to-person contact. People who get hepatitis A typically develop symptoms 2 to 7 weeks after infection. Symptoms include:
• Yellow skin or eyes
• Not wanting to eat
• Upset stomach
• Stomach pain
• Throwing up
• Dark urine or light colored stools
• Joint pain
• Feeling tired
Hepatitis A is very contagious, and people can even spread the virus before they feel sick People who get Hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death; this is more common in older people and in people with other serious health issues, such as chronic liver disease.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by a safe and effective vaccine. If you are in one of the risk groups (a person experiencing homelessness, a person who uses injection or non-injection drugs, or a man who has sex with men) or if you had contact with someone with hepatitis A, contact your health care provider or Wilkes Health about hepatitis A vaccine.
Additionally, always wash your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before preparing meals for yourself and others.