LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News Release) – The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has identified a case of hepatitis A (hep A) in Washington County that is linked to the current outbreak in Arkansas.
Since February 2018, there have been 335 hep A cases as part of the outbreak in Arkansas. Several other states have also experienced hep A outbreaks. The primary way hep A is spreading is through close personal contacts in the community. Those at high risk of getting hep A are:
- Anyone who has had close contact with someone who has hep A
- People who use drugs, whether injected or not
- People experiencing homelessness, transient, or unstable housing
- People who have been recently incarcerated
The general public is not at risk of hep A due to this case; however, the outbreaks occurring in Arkansas and across the nation have shown that one case in the community can lead to more cases, especially among those who are at high risk. Close contacts of the case and high-risk individuals are being contacted about receiving the hep A vaccine.
The best way to protect against hep A is to get the hep A vaccine. The hep A vaccine is safe and effective. Those who are at low risk of getting hep A but are interested in getting the vaccine should talk with their doctor or pharmacist. The Washington County Health Unit has vaccine available for those at high risk at no cost to the patient.
Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hep A virus, which is a different virus from the viruses that cause hep B or hep C. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person. Regular hand washing with soap and water, especially when preparing food and after using the restroom, can help protect against hep A. Hand sanitizers are not effective against the hepatitis A virus.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should see their doctor or health care provider. Typical symptoms of hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. However, the virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. Almost all people who get hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.
Older people typically have more severe symptoms. Other risk factors for having more severe symptoms of hep A include people who also have other infections or chronic diseases like hep B or hep C, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes. Up to one in three adults may be hospitalized. Death due to hep A is rare, but is more likely in patients with other liver diseases (like hep B or hep C).
For more information about hep A and updated information about the outbreak in Arkansas, please visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov. The Local Health Unit listing can be found at https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/health-units.