ODH notes increase in hepatitis cases

Staff report

The Ohio Department of Health declared a statewide community outbreak this summer after observing an increase in hepatitis A cases.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter – even in microscopic amounts – from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. Hepatitis A can also be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex. The statewide community outbreak is spread through person-to-person contact.

In May 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided an updated case definition resulting in an increase in the number of outbreak cases in Ohio. ODH and local health departments continue to investigate reported hepatitis A cases.

The high-risk populations for hepatitis A in this outbreak include: people who use drugs, injection or non-injection; people experiencing unstable housing or homelessness; people who are currently or were recently incarcerated; men who have sex with men; and people with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools, and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to severe illness lasting several months.

People who believe that they are at high risk for hepatitis A infection should contact their healthcare provider or local health department for information about vaccination. People who know that they have been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider or local health department to discuss post-exposure vaccination options. Individuals who experience symptoms of hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider.

Staff report