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County’s hepatitis A outbreak appears to be past its peak

September 28, 2018

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A health department says a West Virginia county’s hepatitis A outbreak appears to be past its peak.

Dr. Michael Kilkenny with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department said the peak of the epidemic occurred in July and has been gradually reducing. The decline gives no indication of when the number of new hepatitis A cases will return to more typical levels, he said.

Cabell County has more than 200 confirmed cases, The Herald-Dispatch reported . It had not had a diagnosed case in the past five years, but at its peak averaged 20 new cases per week through July.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by a virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person or by consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice.

Secondary peaks are still possible, Kilkenny said, and warned against public complacency toward thorough handwashing and receiving the hepatitis A vaccinations. Kilkenny also noted that a decline in Cabell County doesn’t indicate hepatitis A is declining across the region, as diseases tend to spike in different areas at different times.

Kanawha County currently has more than 640 cases, which alone account for nearly half of West Virginia’s more than 1,310 hepatitis A diagnoses. Allison Adler, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, wrote that Kanawha County has seen a slight decrease in the amount of new hepatitis A cases, though not as significantly as Cabell County.

“As more of the at-risk population becomes infected or vaccinated, communities may see cases start to level off, but this does not mean the outbreak is over as cases are being identified in new counties each week,” Adler wrote in an email Wednesday. It may take nine months for the state to see a widespread decline in new cases, Adler added.

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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