JEFFERSON COUNTY, IL — The Health Department has received reports of 9 cases of Hepatitis A in Jefferson County in the past three weeks. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, this meets the definition of an outbreak. Hepatitis A is an acute illness with a discrete onset of any sign or symptom consistent with acute viral hepatitis (e.g., fever, headache, malaise, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or dark urine).
Hepatitis A is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. This can happen through close person-to-person contact with an infected person, sexual contact with an infected person, or ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Who is at increased risk for acquiring hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection?
- Persons with direct contact with persons who have hepatitis A
- Travelers to countries with high or intermediate endemicity of HAV infection
- Men who have sex with men
- Users of injection and non-injection drugs
- Persons with clotting factor disorders
- Persons working with nonhuman primates
- Household members and other close personal contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate hepatitis A endemicity
Among older children and adults, infection is typically symptomatic. Symptoms usually occur abruptly and can include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored stool
- Joint pain
Most (70%) of the infections in children younger than age 6 are not accompanied by symptoms. When symptoms are present, young children typically do not have jaundice; most (>70%) older children and adults with HAV infection have this symptom.
Symptoms of hepatitis A usually last less than 2 months, although 10%–15% of symptomatic persons have prolonged or relapsing disease for up to 6 months.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection. The Center for Disease Control recommends that the following people be vaccinated against hepatitis A:
- All children at age 12–23 months
- Unvaccinated children and adolescents aged 2–18 years
- People experiencing homelessness
- Infants from 6–11 months of age traveling internationally where hepatitis A vaccine is recommended
- Healthy travelers from 12 months to 40 years of age going to a country with high or intermediate endemicity of hepatitis A
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use injection and non-injection drugs (i.e., any illicit drug)
- People who have occupational risk for infection (e.g., work with primates infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) or with HAV in a research laboratory setting)
- People who have chronic liver disease
- People who anticipate close contact with an adoptee from a country with high or intermediate endemic hepatitis A
- People with HIV
- People with direct contact with people who have hepatitis A (postexposure prophylaxis)
- Any person wishing to obtain immunity (protection)
For more information on vaccination or to set up an appointment to be vaccinated, call Jefferson County Health Department at 618-244-7134.