LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) recommends all Greene County residents that are 19-60 years of age get vaccinated for hepatitis A (hep A).
Mass hep A vaccination clinics will be held July 26-27, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Greene County Health Unit at 801 Goldsmith Rd. and Eastside Baptist Church at 529 East Court Street, both in Paragould.
Patients should bring their insurance card and driver’s license if they have them. If they don’t have insurance, or if there is a co-pay through their insurance, the ADH will provide the shot at no cost to the patient. Patients can also get the shot through their doctor’s office or pharmacy.
Since February 2018, 60 cases of hepatitis A have been reported as part of an outbreak in Northeast Arkansas, including one death. All of the cases have been in adults. Eighty percent of cases reported in the last month have been in Greene County residents. ADH is focusing on 19-60 year olds because: all of our current cases are in that age range, many children are already vaccinated for hep A, and many adults over 60 have developed immunity to hep A through previous exposure to the virus.
“There are hep A outbreaks happening across the United States, and some of them currently include hundreds of people,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist. “We have the benefit of being able to look at what other states are doing to help us manage our own outbreak. We believe that taking this step will help curb this outbreak and keep people from getting sick.”
The hep A vaccine is safe and effective. Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis 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, or stool, of an infected person.
Risk factors for getting hep A include: close contact with someone who has hep A, being a food worker, illicit drug use, homelessness, or incarceration. Risk factors for having more severe symptoms of hep A include having other infections or chronic diseases like hep B or C, HIV/AIDS or diabetes.
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.
The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms. The older a person is when they get hep A, typically the more severe symptoms they have. Up to one in three adults are typically hospitalized. Almost all people who get hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months. Death due to hep A is rare, but is more likely in patients with other liver diseases (like hep B or C).
For more information about hep A and updated information about the outbreak in Arkansas, please visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.