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Health department granted $81K for hep A vaccines, work

August 11, 2018

HUNTINGTON — The Cabell-Huntington Health Department has been granted a total of $81,000 from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health this week to purchase around 1,000 additional hepatitis A vaccines and cover personnel costs accrued managing the regional outbreak.

“The outbreak in ongoing; it’s going to take a long time for us to get this under control, and we need every effort to do it,” said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. “We’re working as hard as we can, and we’re encouraged that we’ve gotten some help.

“We’ll keep going as long as it takes.”

The funding allocates $40,000 specifically for vaccines, chiefly to immunize more of an infected person’s close contacts who might have been exposed to the disease but until recently were not identified. The health department meets with each infected individual to determine who they have had contact with, who might be at risk and offer immunizations.

The new vaccines have already arrived and gone into use, particularly for the area’s most at-risk, who are often uninsured or underinsured. The department has advised those with insurance to contact their primary care provider for information about the vaccine, which remains readily available in the Tri-State.

The department was also granted $20,000 for more vaccines last month.

The additional $41,000 will be used to reimburse the cost of additional manpower the

outbreak has required — such as overtime, epidemiological costs, inspecting restaurants and having to catch up on other matters with recent attention focused on hepatitis A.

“An outbreak of this magnitude takes top priority,” Kilkenny added.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver and is spread from person to person by the “fecaloral” route, often by inadequate handwashing after using the toilet or changing diapers. Hepatitis A 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.

It can take up to 50 days after exposure to the virus for someone to become ill, but most people experience symptoms within 28 to 30 days after being exposed.

Members of the community can take critical steps to prevent the spread of hepatitis A — namely, ensuring thorough handwashing with soap and hot water after using the toilet and before handling food.

Hepatitis A vaccinations are highly effective if received within 14 days of exposure, according to the health department.

Two doses of the vaccination are recommended — the second dose is received six months after the first dose. After receiving the first dose, the vaccine is 95 percent effective.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

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