(WAFB) - Louisiana is close to linking 1,000 hepatitis A cases to an outbreak that began in 2018.
The latest numbers tracked by the state’s health department show officials linked the outbreak to 959 cases of hepatitis A infection around Louisiana.
Five other cases being tracked by the department are not connected to the outbreak.
Between three and five outbreak-related infections were documented in dozens of parishes around the state.
A significantly higher amount of cases, between 61 and 240, were tracked in Livingston, East Baton Rouge, and Ouachita parishes.
Weekly data released by the state shows no more than a few cases are linked to the outbreak each week.
The outbreak is blamed for three deaths.
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’s 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.
Those at higher risk of getting the illness include travelers, pregnant women, people who inject drugs, and the homeless.
HEPATITIS A PREVENTION
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. 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.
Treatment for hep A includes rest, fluids, adequate nutrition, and monitoring from a medical professional. The CDC recommends children aged 1 year and older and anyone traveling or who wants to have an extra layer of protection get the shot.
Click here for vaccination locations in Louisiana.
Hepatitis A can also be prevented through practicing good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
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 to 15%) 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.
Report any suspected case of Hepatitis A within to the Louisiana Office of Public Health Infectious Disease Epidemiology Hotline by calling 1-800-256-2748.
Click here to report a typo.