CHARLESTON — Six national epidemiological experts from the Centers for Disease Control are now stationed in West Virginia to help manage the region’s hepatitis A outbreak, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced Wednesday.
The experts from the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention will provide technical assistance mostly in Kanawha and Putnam counties, which are by far the areas hit hardest by hepatitis A in West Virginia.
The CDC will assist in data management and case investigations as DHHR continues to bolster efforts at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, where state epidemiologists have also been embedded since May.
“We have been working closely with Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and its local health department on this outbreak,” wrote Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, in a statement.
The request for CDC aid comes at the direction of Gov. Jim Justice.
As of last report Friday, there are 975 hepatitis A cases reported statewide, including 513 in Kanawha County alone. Cabell County, a distant second, has reported 194 cases, while Putnam has recorded 83. The Cabell-Huntington Health Department said Wednesday it had not been notified Cabell County would receive any CDC expert assistance.
“We have been working closely with Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and its local health department on this outbreak.”
Dr. Rahul Gupta state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health
The virus has been confirmed in 27 counties including Boone (31 cases), Wayne (29), Lincoln (18), Mason (17), Logan (14) and Wyoming (fewer than 5).
The Bureau for Public Health has to date provided 18,270 hepatitis A vaccines statewide.
Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver and is spread from person to person by the “fecal-oral” 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. There is a two-week window for those who might have been exposed to receive the hepatitis A vaccine. After the 14-day window has closed, the vaccine might not be effective.
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