Northern Kentucky health officials are reaching out in an effort to help contain a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A.
Usually, Kentucky has about 20 cases of Hepatitis A each year. But in November 2017 state health officials declared an outbreak and since then 600 cases have been confirmed.
Most of those cases have been found among the homeless or users of illicit drugs and the majority are centered in Louisville.
Still, health officials said much of the public remains unaware of the outbreak and the best way to fight against it.
The best, and simplest, way to combat Hep A is frequent hand washing with soap and warm water and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs with a bleach solution. Under a prevention plan unveiled Monday, health officials are distributing posters and information about proper hygiene and cleaning to health care providers, correctional facilities and drug rehab facilities.
Saddler stressed that warm water and soap is needed and that hand sanitizer is not effective in stemming the spread of the disease.
“We want to make sure that these groups and the public are aware of the statewide outbreak and steps they can take to help prevent Hepatitis A from getting a foothold here in Northern Kentucky,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health for Northern Kentucky Health Department.
She said there have been only 6 cases of Hep A in the counties served by her department.
“The time you prevent something is before it happens so that’s exactly why we are trying to get out in front of this,” she said.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, unseen amounts of feces from an infected person. The virus also can be transmitted by close personal contact through sex or by caring for a person infected with Hepatitis A. Symptoms of Hepatitis A may include: fatigue, fever, headache, diarrhea, nausea, dark urine, pale stool, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) and/or abdominal pain.
Northern Kentucky has also recently seen an unusually high number of HIV infections linked to intravenous drug use.
Saddler said blood work on those cases has been examined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which could lead to a better understanding of how HIV is spreading in the region. That, she said, could lead to a more effective containment strategy for the disease.