District 4 Public Health is not seeing an increase in the number of people with hepatitis A at this time, but are urging vaccination against the highly contagious liver infection.

Since June 2018, the Georgia Department of Public Health has identified hundreds of acute hepatitis A virus infections statewide, and the numbers continue to increase. Georgia is one of many states experiencing an outbreak of the highly contagious liver infection.

Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.

Those most at risk of hepatitis A include:

• illicit (injection and non-injection) drug users,
• individuals who have a history of incarceration in jail or prison,
• men who have sex with men,
• close contacts of people with hepatitis A,
• homeless or transient individuals, and
• persons with close contact to someone with these risk factors.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. To get the full benefit of the hepatitis A vaccine, more than one shot is needed. Hepatitis A vaccine is available at your local health department. good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food – plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.

If you have had Hepatitis A, you have lifelong immunity from the disease. Also, since hepatitis A vaccination is required for school-age children born on or after January 1, 2006, these individuals do not need vaccination.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can appear abruptly and can include:

Fever
Fatigue
Loss of appetite
Nausea
Vomiting
Abdominal pain
Dark urine
Diarrhea
Clay-colored stools
Joint pain
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

A health care provider can determine if you have hepatitis A by discussing your symptoms and taking a blood sample. Health care providers should report patients with hepatitis A infection to their local public health department or by calling 1-866-PUB HLTH (1-866-782-4584).

More information on the multistate outbreak.