COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Health declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A on Friday evening.
The declaration followed the reporting of 79 hepatitis A cases in Ohio so far this year, almost double the number reported in all of 2017, according to a release issued by the department.
A number of the cases have been linked to outbreaks already reported in neighboring states, the department said. They include Indiana (138 cases), Kentucky (761 cases), Michigan (843 cases) and West Virginia (248 cases).
Cuyahoga County had four reported cases as of June 20, according to the health department. Summit County had one, and none were reported in other neighboring counties.
Montgomery County (Dayton) had 17 cases, the most in the state, followed by Lawrence, at the state’s southern tip (12 cases) and Lucas (Toledo) with 10.
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 also can spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
“Good hand-washing and vaccination are the best ways to prevent hepatitis A in at-risk individuals,” said Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and chief of the ODH Bureau of Infectious Diseases. “If you or someone you know has one or more risk factors for hepatitis A, call your local health department to see about getting vaccinated.”
ODH said Ohio’s cases appear primarily to be among “people who use illegal drugs, those who have been incarcerated, people who have had contact with known cases, those also infected with hepatitis C, men who have sex with men, and people experiencing homelessness.”
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 a severe illness lasting several months.