Ohio hep A outbreak grows to nearly 2,000 cases

The hepatitis A outbreak in Ohio has grown to nearly 2,000 recorded cases.

The outbreak of the viral liver disease, declared in June, has led to 1,194 hospitalizations and seven deaths in the state. There have been 1,931 cases as of March 11, which is the latest data available.

The outbreak has hit area counties hard. Butler County has the second highest case count statewide, with 286 recorded cases. Montgomery County is the third highest with 212 cases. The county with the highest case counts is Franklin County, home to Columbus, with 294.

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The number of hepatitis A cases has been much higher than most years, when 40 to 45 occurrences statewide are typical. In Montgomery County, there was one case in 2017, no cases in 2016 and one case in 2015.

“Anything in double digits is big,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County.

The virus can be shared through even a microscopic amount of fecal matter and vaccines are encouraged to prevent the spread. The Ohio cases have ranged from a 1-year-old to an 84-year-old.

The most at risk groups are homeless, illicit drug users, those in jail and men who have sex with men. But anyone could get hepatitis A if they touch their mouth or eat food after coming in contact with even microscopic amounts of fecal matter from an infected individual.

Montgomery County continues to provide vaccines at its clinic, Suffoletto said, as well as hold off-site vaccine events in areas with high-risk populations, such as the jail and homeless shelters.

The pace of new cases has slowed down slightly, he said. But there is a delay between when a person catches the virus and when they have symptoms so the information that Public Health collects is delayed.

MORE: Montgomery, Butler counties have highest hep A cases in state

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months. Those who have been exposed to someone with hepatitis A or who have symptoms should contact their provider.

The vaccine is recommended but not required, so not all children receive it. The vaccine was first recommended for children in 1996, so many adults might not be vaccinated.

Public health departments carry the vaccine and it also might be available from your pharmacist, provider or an area retail clinic.

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