Edgar County is part of the statewide breakout of hepatitis A
The Edgar County Health Department confirmed Tuesday, March 5, 14 cases of hepatitis A were identified in the county by the end of February. Another possible case remains under investigation.
“We continue to receive new reports of hepatitis A cases throughout Edgar County,” says Jean McConkey, Director of Nursing at Edgar County Public Health Department. “We urge those at highest risk of infection to seek out hepatitis A vaccination, this includes people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, homeless individuals and those who feel they may have been exposed or who have worked with high-risk populations.”
Hepatitis A is an infection that can damage the liver and is passed easily from person to person through food, water, drug use and sex. It is a vaccine-preventable illness. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements and joint pain.
McConkey urged anyone exhibiting these symptoms and who suspects hepatitis exposure to immediately visit a personal physician or the closest emergency room.
“Individuals who may be infected with hepatitis A, but do not seek medical treatment, could be exposing dozens more people that public health officials will be unable to reach,” said McConkey. “To help stop the spread of the disease and a larger outbreak, people who are infected, or think they may be infected, need to get treatment immediately so we can identify others who could become sick.”
There have been 44 outbreak-related cases reported throughout Illinois. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, on average, there are 70 cases of hepatitis A reported in Illinois each year. The state had 97 confirmed cases in 2018. So far in 2019, 32 cases have been reported in Illinois, 17 of which have been associated with the statewide outbreak.
McConkey emphasized people at a higher risk for contracting hepatitis A should contact either the local health department or health care provider about vaccination. The vaccine is available for free, or at a reduced cost, at the Edgar County Health Department for people at the greatest risk of becoming infected.
For more information about hepatitis A, go to the IDPH website or to https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/index.htm.