Hepatitis A

Rate of Hepatitis A Infections May Be Slowing

Sep 11, 2018
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Kentucky has more than 1,600 cases of Hepatitis A, but Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard says that rise in cases has prompted people outside of the high risk groups to recognize the seriousness of the outbreak and the opportunity for prevention.

“The message is getting out there load and clear and it is making people more receptive to vaccine,” he said.

Hepatitis A has been especially hard on the large number of people in Kentucky who already had another liver disease, Hepatitis C. Howard says nearly all the people who have died from Hepatitis A also had diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

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A Daviess County pharmacist says the demand for Hepatitis A vaccine continues to grow in the face of a statewide outbreak.

Jigna Wilson, with Wilson Family Pharmacy in Owensboro, says her office is keeping busy filling requests for the vaccine from doctors’ offices and customers.

Wilson’s pharmacy is offering to take the Hepatitis A vaccine to the homes of customers who aren’t able to get out.

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As many Kentucky students head back to school this week, the state Department for Public Health is reminding parents to make sure children and teens are up to date on their vaccines

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade must show proof of having received two doses of the Hepatitis-A vaccine to attend school.  The commonwealth is in the grips of a Hepatitis-A outbreak with more than 400 confirmed cases in the past year.

Alexandra Kanik

Jim Thacker is frustrated.

The spokesperson for the Madison County, Kentucky, Health Department said there is a real threat of a Hepatitis A outbreak at the detention center right down the road in Richmond.

Built to house about 240 inmates, it holds more than 400. 

“It’s like a petri dish, they are packed so close together,” he said.

The majority of the Madison County inmates are in jail on drug charges, and health officials say the homeless and people with substance abuse disorders are most vulnerable to Hep A infection in this outbreak.


Mary Meehan

The low rumble of industrial fans fills the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, a shelter that provides meals and other services for homeless people.

It’s mid-morning on a hot July day and dozens of people sit camped on couches in the entryway, or slouch at tables nearby. Despite the fans the air is stale from too many bodies too close together -- ideal conditions for the spread of disease. The region’s Hepatitis A outbreak is approaching 2,000 confirmed cases in the Ohio Valley, with the bulk of them in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Health officials say the number of undiagnosed infections is likely far higher.


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Like several other states, Kentucky is dealing with a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A. 

The virus can lead to a potentially deadly liver infection.  It's most often transmitted through fecal matter coming in contact with a person's mouth. 

Dr. Jeffrey Howard, Acting Commissioner of the state Department for Public Health, says Kentucky averages 20 cases of Hepatitis A a year, but the commonwealth has seen more than 600 cases since the outbreak started in the fall of 2017.

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A Hepatitis A outbreak growing in the Louisville area since last summer reached a new peak recently with a travel advisory from Indiana health officials. They told Hoosiers heading to Kentucky to get a Hep A vaccine.

Soon, Kentucky’s Acting Commissioner for Public Health Dr. Jeffrey Howard was pushing back.

“Let me say that it IS safe to travel to Kentucky, and it IS safe to attend the Kentucky Derby,” Howard said via the state’s official YouTube channel.