The Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) is continuing to see an increase in cases of hepatitis A in Northern Kentucky (Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties) as part of the larger statewide outbreak.

When NKY Health first announced the outbreak in August 2018, more than 50 cases of hepatitis A had been reported. As of November 29, this number has almost quadrupled to more than 200 cases, including two deaths. In comparison, there were no cases of hepatitis A reported among Northern Kentucky residents last year.

“Hepatitis A infection can be prevented through vaccination and frequent, proper hand washing. Children, ages 1 through 18, are already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis A for school. With the outbreak occurring, we are strongly encouraging the vaccine for all adults. In this way, your entire family can have protection against this infection and help eliminate the spread of hepatitis A in Northern Kentucky,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health at NKY Health.

The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart. The first shot provides short-term protection and the second shot provides long-term protection. The vaccine is available at most doctors’ offices, pharmacies and retail clinics.

Statewide, Kentucky has reported 2,769 outbreak cases, including 1,438 hospitalizations and 17 deaths since Aug. 2017.

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Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach pain, brown-colored urine and light-colored stools. Yellowing of the skin or eyes may also appear. People may have some or none of these symptoms. It could take up to seven weeks after being exposed to the virus for someone to become ill. The virus spreads when an infected person does not wash his/her hands adequately after using the toilet or engages in behaviors that increase risk of infection, such as drug use. Even if a person does not have outbreak risk factors, they may come in contact with someone who does. Any person who believes they may have symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their health care provider.