In a follow-up on the hepatitis A outbreak in Arkansas, The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has reported 195 outbreak cases since February. The outbreak is primarily situated in the northeastern part of the state.
The bulk of the cases have been reported in Greene, Craighead, Clay and Lawrence counties.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).
It is transmitted person-to-person when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces of an infected person. It can also be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, for example, through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
While anyone can get hepatitis A, in the United States, the CDC cautions the follow groups of people are at a higher risk:
- People who have direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sexual contact with men
- People who use drugs, both injection and non-injection drugs
- Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis is common
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by practicing good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food – and through vaccination.
The hepatitis A vaccine is safe, effective and given as two shots, six months apart. Both shots are needed for long-term protection. It can be given to people with compromised immune systems, and getting extra doses of the vaccine is not harmful.
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