Hepatitis A outbreak in Georgia, Alabama

GEORGIA, (WRBL) - An outbreak of Hepatitis  A is spreading throughout Georgia. According to Nancy Nydam, the Director of Communications for the Georgia Department of Public Health, the infectious disease is spreading faster than previous years in Georgia.

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease that affects the liver, usually spread through consuming food or drinks that have been contaminated with infected feces. Other common sources of infection are eating shellfish that has not been cooked appropriately. The disease can also be spread through close contact with someone already infected.

The GDPH states that "Outbreaks have occurred among injection and non-injection drug users, homeless populations, and men who have sex with men (MSM). The best protection against HAV infections and outbreaks is through widespread vaccination, particularly among the populations most at risk (injection and non-injection drug users)."

The number of infections has risen over the last three years in Alabama and Georgia, beginning particularly in 2018. The number of infections in Alabama rose from 23 in 2017 to 37 in 2018, with 37 already reported in 2019 so far.

In Georgia, the numbers have risen faster, with cases in 2017 numbering at 24 before rising to 84 in 2018 and already 100 reported so far in 2019.

Common symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin and eyes, according to the Department of Health.

Hepatitis A can be treated with a vaccine within the first 14 days of exposure, according to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While some cases “need medical care in a hospital. It can take a few months before people with hepatitis A begin to feel better,” most patients are recommended to “rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids.”

The CDC also states that “the hepatitis A vaccine will only protect you against hepatitis A. There is a separate vaccine available for hepatitis B. There is also a combination hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine that offers protection for both viruses. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C at this time.”

For more information, go to the CDC website on hepatitis A facts and statistics.

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