COLUMBUS, Ohio-- The Ohio Department of Health declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A on Friday.
There have been 79 cases associated with the outbreak so far this year, which is almost double the number of cases reported for all of last year.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can last a few weeks to several months. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice.
Neighboring states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia are also experiencing outbreaks. By declaring an outbreak, the Ohio Department of Health will have access to additional hepatitis A vaccines through the Centers for Disease Control.
“Good hand-washing and vaccination are the best ways to prevent hepatitis A in at-risk individuals,” said Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and chief of the ODH Bureau of Infectious Diseases, in a news release. “If you or someone you know has one or more risk factors for hepatitis A, call your local health department to see about getting vaccinated.”
It usually spreads when a person ingests even microscopic amounts of fecal matter from contact with food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. The disease can also spread through close personal contact, like sex, with an infected person.
People at an increased risk for hepatitis A are those who travel to countries where the virus is prevalent, those who have direct contact with individuals infected with the virus, people with chronic liver disease and people with blood clotting disorders.