Increase in Hepatitis A Cases Triggers Community Response
(Sedgwick County, Kan.) – The Sedgwick County Health Department, Ascension Via Christi and other local healthcare providers have identified more than 100 Sedgwick County residents who have been diagnosed with hepatitis A since May 2020.
That number represents a major increase in local hepatitis A cases, as there were four cases reported in Sedgwick County in all of 2019. Most of the recent spate of cases were individuals diagnosed at local emergency departments. Cases are reported to public health by clinics and hospitals. Health Department staff investigate reports of hepatitis A, provide education and identify contacts to stop the spread of disease.
"We are working closely with the health department to identify cases and determine the source of this outbreak," said infectious disease specialist Maggie Hagan, MD, who serves as medical director of Infection Control at Ascension Via Christi. "It is very important that people who are diagnosed with Hepatitis A share a list of everyone with whom they have had close contact so that we can trace and prevent further spread of this disease."
“We appreciate the collaborative efforts of our partners as we work to combat this increase in cases,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne. “It is critical that we work together to identify and treat our infected and vulnerable populations.”
The hepatitis A virus is found in stool (poop) and blood of people who are infected. The virus is usually spread through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink. More than half of the individuals recently diagnosed in Sedgwick County reported a history of IV drug use.
Common symptoms of the disease include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Symptoms usually last less than two months. While most people get better on their own, some people require hospitalization. In rare cases, death can occur. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A.
If you have symptoms of hepatitis A, contact your medical provider or a local clinic. Your contacts should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of this contagious disease. If you don’t have symptoms, check with a medical provider about vaccination.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to be vaccinated with the full, two-dose series. People recommended to receive hepatitis A vaccine include children aged 12-23 months and people at an increased risk for infection. Contact your medical provider or the Sedgwick County Health Department (316-660-7300) for vaccination.
In addition to vaccination, prevent infection by washing your hands after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing and eating food.