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The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) gave an update on the hepatitis A outbreak in the northeastern part of the state recently and we see since February 2018, 36 cases of Hep A have been reported as part of an outbreak, with a majority of cases in Clay and Greene counties. Cases have also been found in Lawrence, Randolph, and Craighead counties. Six of these cases have been in food workers. All of the cases have been in adults.

Arkansas map/ National Atlas of the United States
Arkansas map/ National Atlas of the United States

Risk factors for getting Hep A in this outbreak are close contact with someone who has Hep A; restaurant workers; people with infections or chronic diseases like Hep B or C, HIV/AIDS or diabetes; drug use; homelessness; or incarceration.

Dr. Gary Wheeler, ADH Chief Medical Officer said, “Anyone in the affected counties should be aware of the heightened risk of Hep A in their community and get vaccinated if necessary.”

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). Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. 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.

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Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for school children for many years, and one dose of Hep A vaccine is required for entry into kindergarten and first grade as of 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated, but may have been if they received vaccinations prior to traveling internationally.

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