Tag Archives: hepatitis A

5 Fast Facts About Hepatitis A

Recently, a series of hepatitis A exposures in South Carolina have brought attention to the dangers of hepatitis A.  As of May 13, 2019, DHEC declared a statewide hepatitis A outbreak.  Many are now wondering what exactly is hepatitis A, how is the disease spread and if it is curable.

While chances of becoming infected are low, here are five fast facts about hepatitis A you should know:

  1. Hepatitis A is a short-term viral infection causing inflammation of the liver.  In 2016, there were an estimated 4,000 Hepatitis A cases in the United States. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage.
  2. Hepatitis A is preventable by receiving a vaccine.  The vaccine consists of two shots administered six months apart.  If exposed to the hepatitis A virus, a vaccine can be given up to two weeks after exposure in order to prevent infection.  DHEC’s local health departments provide hepatitis A vaccines and are currently providing no-cost vaccinations to individuals in at-risk groups.
  3. Symptoms may not appear until the infection has advanced.  Symptoms start to develop two to six weeks after exposure, and include fever, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, and yellow skin (Jaundice).
  4. Hepatitis A is spread from person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection or through eating or drinking food or water contaminated by an infected person.  It is also contracted through sex or close contact with an infected person, such as a household member.  Hepatitis A can be found in the blood and stool of a person infected with the virus and is “usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Food contamination can happen at any point, from growing and harvesting to transporting and cooking. Proper hand washing is vital to preventing the spread of the virus.
  5. If you had hepatitis A once, you cannot get it again.  Most people who contract hepatitis A usually recover without having long-lasting liver damage.  Once you recover, you develop antibodies that protect you from the virus for life.

 

For the latest list of possible hepatitis A exposures at restaurants in South Carolina visit:  https://www.scdhec.gov/health/infectious-diseases/hepatitis-overview/hepatitis-possible-restaurant-exposure.

To schedule an appointment for vaccination at your local health department, call 1-855-472-3432 or visit www.scdhec.gov/health/health-public-health-clinics for locations and hours of operation.

DHEC offering Free Hepatitis Testing during Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and while National Hepatitis Testing Day is on May 19, DHEC’s health departments will be providing free testing on May 16.  Know Hepatitis LogosAppointments are encouraged. Please call 1-855-4-SCDHEC (472-3432) to schedule your appointment.

There are many strains of the hepatitis virus but for this year’s Hepatitis Awareness Month DHEC is focusing on Hepatitis A, B, and C, the major causes of contagious liver disease. The department urges anyone who has ever injected drugs, even once, and individuals born between 1945 and 1965, to talk with their healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis C and ask if they should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A may occur in the context of community-wide epidemics, or from exposures to food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex, needle-sharing by IV drug users or caring for someone who is ill.

Both Hepatitis B and C are usually spread when blood or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis B and C virus infections cause some people to develop an acute, or short-term, illness, while others develop a chronic, or long-term, illness.

In 2016, there were 33 cases of acute hepatitis B and 457 cases of chronic hepatitis B reported in South Carolina. Hepatitis B cases were on a steady decline nationally after the widespread use of the hepatitis B vaccine, but in recent years that rate of decline has slowed.

Nearly half of people living with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms and don’t know they are infected. The vast majority of new infections go undiagnosed. In South Carolina, almost 6,000 people were reported with chronic hepatitis C in 2016. Of those, the majority were baby boomers who were born between 1945 and 1965. Baby boomers are six times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than those in other age groups. They are also at a much higher risk of death from the virus.

Nationally, the number of new hepatitis C infections has nearly tripled over five years, reaching a 15-year high. The greatest increases and the highest overall number of cases were among young people ages 20-29 who inject drugs.

Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B but not C.

For more information about viral hepatitis and where to get tested visit www.scdhec.gov/ViralHepatitis or call the STD/HIV Hotline at 1-800-322-2437.