What You Need to Know About Hepatitis A

Ashley Courtney, Staff Reporter

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The hepatitis A outbreak was officially announced in November of 2017 by the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), and nearly a year later, the highly contagious infection has spread throughout the state at an alarming rate. There are over 2,000 reported cases of hepatitis A in Kentucky, at least 1,126 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths. Approximately 90 counties have been impacted, the latest being Pike County and Perry County.


Hepatitis A, as described by the KDPH, is “a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.” Fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing skin), joint pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, and grey-colored stools are all reported symptoms of hepatitis A; however, symptoms are not always present. Symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months, but in some cases, symptoms can last up to six months.

Hepatitis A is usually spread through the ingestion of fecal matter (frequently in microscopic amounts) from food, drinks, or objects that have come in contact with someone who is infected. Recreational drug use, engagements in sexual activities, and food handling are some prime factors in the spread of infection. When infected, most people feel sick for a few months and recover completely with the help of rest, nutrition, fluids, and medical monitoring. Liver failure and death may occur in severe cases—primarily in people over 50 or who have other liver problems.

The most effective form of prevention is the hepatitis A vaccination. It is given in two doses, each one six months apart, and is said to be very efficient. Thorough hand-washing is also highly recommended. All students throughout the state of Kentucky were required to receive their hepatitis A vaccinations for the 2018-2019 school year in an attempt to prevent the spread of the infection in schools.

Hepatitis A is rapidly spreading through the state of Kentucky, so we should take extra precaution. Although the infection has not yet reached Woodford County, cases have been confirmed in several counties surrounding us. If you suspect you are showing symptoms of hepatitis A, contact a doctor or health official within 24 hours.