Local outbreak of hepatitis A declared in Madison County, calling for vaccinations; heavy demand for vaccine in Whitley County

Madison County health officials have declared a local outbreak of hepatitis A and called on all local residents to get vaccinated for the liver disease that lives on poor hygiene.

“There are now 24 hepatitis A cases in Madison County related to the statewide outbreak that produced more than 2,050 across Kentucky,” reports Mike Stunson of the Lexington Herald-Leader, citing the county health department. “It reported 13 cases on Oct. 6.”

The department recommended hepatitis A vaccinations for all residents.

In Whitley County, where 99 cases have been reported, “Pharmacies are struggling to keep up with the demand for vaccines,” reports Phil Pendleton of Lexington’s WKYT and Hazard’s WYMT.

“Rick Loudermelt at Whitley Pharmacy in Williamsburg says they have given out numerous vaccines since May of this year,” Pendleton reports. “He says it’s been hard to keep up with the demand, administering between 15 and 20 a week.”

Madison County Public Health Director Nancy Crewe said vaccinations “should have a mitigating effect on the severity of the outbreak. We certainly don’t think there is any need for panic, but it is important that we get the word out to our citizens and encourage them to get the vaccine.”

The state Department for Public Health says more than 1,100 people have been hospitalized, and 14 died, in the statewide outbreak since November 2017.

Hepatitis A is usually spread when someone eats or drinks something contaminated by small amounts of stool from an infected person, according to the health department.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes. People can become ill 15 to 50 days after being exposed to the virus.

“Aside from the vaccination, good hand-washing is also recommended to help control the spread of hepatitis A,” Stunson notes.

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