Butler County, once Ohio’s worst, records 2 consecutive weeks of no hep A cases

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.

ExploreMORE: Butler, Montgomery counties lead the state in reports of hepatitis A cases

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.

ExploreMORE: Hepatitis A and other diseases in Butler County rose sharply in 2018

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.

For the first time since September 2018 - when Butler County health officials recorded a sharp jump of hepatitis A cases - the county has registered two consecutive weeks of no reported cases.

A single case was reported in June, according to the Butler County General Health District.

Last September, those contracting the disease in Butler County jumped from seven to 15, reaching a high of 26 in October before declining in frequency.

From 2013 to 2017 the average number of confirmed hepatitis A cases were zero to one per year.

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