Hep A cases

A breakdown of Hepatitis A cases by county. Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

ASHLAND Local health officials say there has been a decrease in Hepatitis A cases since the outbreak began in Kentucky last fall.

Erin Crace, clinic nurse supervisor at the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department, said the county saw a decline in cases in August, citing ordinances passed in June by the Ashland Board of City Commissioners and the Boyd County Fiscal Court requiring food service workers to receive a Hepatitis A vaccination.

“I feel like we have slowed down but we are getting cases still so...it’s not as bad as it was but I think that it’s definitely still around and not going anywhere for awhile,” she said.

The most recent update from the Kentucky Department for Public Health states there have been 165 cases from Aug. 1, 2017 to Nov. 17 of this year in Boyd County. Boyd is ranked second for the highest number of cases in the state with Jefferson County taking first with 639 cases.

There have been 59 cases in Greenup County and 126 in Carter County, ranking it in fourth place. Overall there have been 2,865 cases in Kentucky as of Monday according to Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Information Officer Beth Fisher.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. The primary risk factors for the current outbreak have been illicit drug use and homelessness.

Crace said the ABCHD is still pushing for patrons to get their Hepatitis A vaccination and to practice hand washing, noting hand sanitizer is not effective against the virus. She said the department was busy last month with administering vaccines explaining many were for those coming back for their second vaccination that is needed following six months from the first.

Greenup Health Department Director Christ Crum said Greenup’s Hepatitis A cases have began to level off.

“We really haven’t seen any new cases in the last couple of months … we’re real pleased with that,” he said.

Like Boyd County, Crum said Greenup also saw an increase in those coming back for vaccinations in October. Greenup County has also implemented a vaccination requirement for food service workers. Moving forward he said the department’s new push is to look at opportunities to get individuals vaccinated before they are exposed with the help of local hospitals.

“We will probably be making contact with the hospitals this week and see what we can do to make sure that they have available vaccines in the emergency rooms in our local hospitals to make sure if they’re seeing homeless or they’re seeing people with high risk factors like illicit drug use that they would try to push that Hep A vaccine from our hospital systems,” he said.

The Greenup County Fiscal Court also passed an ordinance in July requiring all food service workers to receive a Hepatitis A vaccination.

Carter County Health Department Nurse Supervisor Trena Greene has also seen a change in pace in cases saying they have slowed down tremendously.

“I can’t even say that we average one a week now,” she said, adding there have been a couple cases within the past month.

She noted the individuals did test positive for Hepatitis A but did not meet the case definition, explaining they did not have jaundice or elevated liver enzymes—both symptoms of the virus.

Greene said the health department has been vaccinating those who utilize the needle exchange program in the county along with those at the jail to hit the at risk populations.

There has also been an average of five to 10 individuals coming in for their Hepatitis A vaccinations on a daily basis, she said.

Carter County has not passed an ordinance requiring food service workers to receive a vaccine but Greene said many have individually chosen to do so, noting several establishments have 100 percent of their employees vaccinated.

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radkins@dailyindependent.com

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