BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More than 460 cases of Hepatitis A were confirmed as part of an ongoing outbreak in Louisiana, data provided by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) showed Friday, Aug. 16.
LDH identified 468 cases of the disease, five of which are not linked to the current outbreak. Those five unrelated cases could be the result of infections happening outside of Louisiana.
According to LDH, the areas with the most cases are in Livingston and East Baton Rouge parishes, ranging from 61 to 140.
LDH says 58% of those affected have been hospitalized. The only death reported to date was identified in data provided April 26. Specifics about the deceased were not immediately provided.
Patients range in age from 5-years-old to 81-years-old, with the median age being 35.
The outbreak was declared in January of 2018.
Hep A is contracted by consuming contaminated food or drink, through sex, and by being in close contact with someone in the same living quarters. Those at higher risk of getting the illness include travelers, pregnant women, people who inject drugs, and the homeless. An infected person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear, and even those who do not experience symptoms can transmit the virus to others.
The following information was provided by LDH:
WHAT IS HEPATITIS A?
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is a vaccine-preventable illness that is easily spread through close contact, as well as from sharing injection and non-injection drugs.
Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person. Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
An infected person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear, and even those who do not experience symptoms can transmit the virus to others.
HEPATITIS A PREVENTION
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine (see below for Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations). Unvaccinated people who have been exposed recently (within two weeks) to the hepatitis A virus should get the hepatitis A vaccine or a shot of immune globulin to prevent severe illness.
Practicing good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food – plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
Where can I get vaccinated? Click here for vaccinate locations in Louisiana.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS A?
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
Most children younger than age 6 do not have symptoms when they have hepatitis A. If symptoms occur, they usually appear four weeks after exposure, but can occur as early as two weeks and as late as seven weeks after exposure.
Symptoms usually develop over a period of several days and last less than two months, although a small percentage of people (10-15 percent) can have symptoms for as long as six months.
Sometimes hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in people older than 50 and people with other liver diseases.