Ohio is the latest state to declare a hepatitis A outbreak, following several other states that have experienced such outbreaks in the last two years. The best way to prevent the disease is through good hygiene and vaccination.
Ohio Statewide Outbreak Declared
Authorities in Ohio have officially declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak following the confirmation of 79 hepatitis A cases this year, which is already almost double the number of confirmed cases the entire previous year. Montgomery County has the most cases in the state with 17 confirmed cases, followed by Lawrence with 12 cases, and Lucas with 10.
Evidently, the cases confirmed in Ohio are actually linked to the outbreaks in nearby states, such as in Michigan, which has 843 confirmed cases; Kentucky, which has 761 confirmed cases; and West Virginia, which has 248 confirmed cases.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, most cases of hepatitis A in the state were among the homeless, men who have had sexual intercourse with other men, individuals who also have hepatitis C, those who use illegal drugs, incarcerated individuals, and people who have had contact with individuals with known cases.
Cases of hepatitis A dropped by 95 percent since the hepatitis A vaccine first became available to the United States in 1995, but several states have been dealing with hepatitis A outbreaks in the last two years. California was the first state to declare an outbreak in March 2017, but the illnesses reportedly began in November 2016. As of April, there were over 700 hepatitis A cases in the state, which resulted in over 400 hospitalizations and 21 deaths.
The hepatitis A cases in California, Utah, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia were found to be genetically similar, but the cases in Michigan were found to be different.
Generally, hepatitis means an inflammation of the liver, and it may be caused by certain medications, heavy alcohol use, medical conditions, and even toxins, but viruses are often the source of the illness. In the United States, the most common viruses are the hepatitis A, B, and C viruses.
Although the symptoms of hepatitis A, B, and C are somewhat similar, they are caused by different viruses, affect the liver differently, and are transmitted in different ways. In the case of hepatitis A, it is spread through the ingestion of the virus through infected food or drinks or through direct contact with an infected person such as when caring for them or during sexual intercourse.
It is a contagious liver infection that may go from mild cases that last for weeks to severe cases that can last for months. In many cases, people who get hepatitis A get better within weeks without lasting liver damage, but in some severe cases, the illness may cause serious liver failure and even death.
Its common symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, joint pain, and clay-colored stool. Anyone who suspects that he or she may have hepatitis A must immediately go to a health care provider where they may be given a postexposure prophylaxis.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through good hygiene and vaccination, and those who already survived hepatitis A in the past are also deemed immune from future infections, as their bodies have already developed antibodies against the virus.