On average, Indiana had 20 hepatitis A cases per year.
Since November 2017, however, the Indiana State Department of Health reports there have been 469 cases. That includes 206 people being hospitalized and one person dying.
During that time, more than 68,000 vaccines have been administered.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
In Jackson County, as of Friday, there have been nine hepatitis A cases, and 1,330 vaccines have been administered.
Mondee Scifres, a registered nurse with the health department, said the state developed a Strike Force Team in response to the hepatitis A outbreak. It’s going from county to county with a mobile unit providing free vaccines to residents.
During the outreach clinics in Jackson County, 178 vaccines were administered at the jail in Brownstown in July, and another 67 were given Sept. 12. Earlier this summer, about 20 were administered at Todd’s Place in Seymour.
Also Sept. 12, the mobile unit was stationed outside American Legion Post 89 and The Alley in Seymour and at the Red Tent Event on the east side of the city.
From 9 a.m. to noon Friday, people will have another opportunity to receive a free hepatitis A vaccine at Brownstown Church of the Nazarene, 616 W. Commerce St.
While she is happy with the number of people vaccinated so far, Scifres said she would like to see more so people are protected.
Some surrounding counties have had more cases, so she said it’s important to promote the vaccine so there’s no outbreak here.
“We don’t have the cases like everybody else has had so far,” she said. “We’re trying to combat it as much as we possibly can before it actually gets here.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus that is spread from person to person through contact with the feces of people who are infected. That can easily happen if someone doesn’t wash his or her hands properly. A person also can get hepatitis A from food, water or objects contaminated with the virus.
Based on CDC guidelines, populations who are homeless, transient, incarcerated or use illicit drugs and their close direct contacts are considered at increased risk of exposure to hepatitis A.
If a person believes he or she has been exposed to hepatitis A or is homeless, uses injection or non-injection drugs, was recently incarcerated or had contact with someone who has hepatitis A, they should contact a health care provider about getting the vaccine.
Symptoms of the virus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, tiredness, stomach ache, fever, dark-colored (cola) urine, light-colored stool and jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), according to the CDC.
The symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure and last less than two months, but some people can be ill as long as six months, the CDC says.
Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, but that is rare and occurs more commonly in people 50 or older and people with other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.
The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent the virus. It’s an inactivated, or killed, vaccine, and a person will need two doses for long-lasting protection, according to the CDC. The doses should be given at least six months apart.
Children are routinely vaccinated between their first and second birthdays. Older children and adolescents can get the vaccine after 23 months, while adults who have not been previously vaccinated and want to be protected can get the vaccine.
At the outreach clinics, people have to put their name and date of birth and answer three questions on a form and sign it. Then they walk into the mobile unit to get vaccinated. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes, Scifres said.
“It’s a very simple process,” she said. “Nobody should be afraid to get the hepatitis A vaccine. There’s nothing really besides pain and soreness where we put the shot. Any vaccine can cause a fever, so we’re not different than any other vaccine. Then the only other side effect for the hepatitis A vaccine is just tiredness or having a headache, and that’s pretty minor. It’s not anything major.”
Scifres encourages people to take advantage of the outreach clinics because if they go through the health department to get a vaccine, there is a cost per dose.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
What: Hepatitis A vaccine outreach clinic
When: 9 a.m. to noon Friday
Where: Brownstown Church of the Nazarene, 616 W. Commerce St., Brownstown
Information: Jackson County Health Department at 812-522-6474
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Hepatitis A can be prevented by strictly adhering to the following guidelines:
- Get vaccinated for hepatitis A
- Wash hands with soap and water after using the restroom, after swimming and before, during and after food preparation
- Wash all produce before eating raw or cooking
- Use treated water for washing, cooking and drinking
- Do not change diapers near recreational water
- When traveling outside the United States, drink bottled drinks, do not eat uncooked produce unless you peel them yourself, do not eat foods or drinks from street vendors and do not drink or eat local water or ice