Butler County has been among the state leaders in having the most hepatitis A cases but has recently seen a lull of two consecutive weeks without a report of the sometimes-deadly disease.
County health officials credit the healthy stretch to various prevention programs, including increased vaccinations and wide-spread distribution of thousands of education materials to high-risk groups.
“All three local health departments (Hamilton, Middletown and county) got busy as soon as the hepatitis A outbreak began in Butler County,” said county Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer.
Officials worked to vaccinate more than 2,500 people whom they considered at-risk, and even more were vaccinated elsewhere. They also distributed 30,000 fliers and packets at locations where high-risk people might visit.
“ It took awhile, but we are now seeing the fruits of our efforts,” she said.
“Over the last six weeks, we have had a total of only five cases of hepatitis A in Butler County. During the peak of this outbreak we were seeing around 21 to 26 cases per week,” she said.
Two Butler County people died from hepatitis A in 2018, a 75-year-old man, and a 42-year-old woman.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. It also can spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
The prevention battle, said Bailer, continues.
“We are not resting as an uptick could happen at any time. Public Health continues to vaccinate those at highest risk, as this epidemic continues around the state,” she said. “And our epidemiologist will keep a close eye on the numbers. We continue to be interested in enrolling partners who regularly see those at highest risk such as jails and drug rehab facilities.”
The vaccine is a two-dose vaccine but even if the second dose can’t be assured, like with a homeless patient, the CDC says a single dose is still worthwhile and has been shown to last for at least 10 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children at age 1 and for at-risk individuals.
Health care providers, retail pharmacies and clinics, and local health departments can also provide vaccinations.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.