Health authorities in Gaston County, North Carolina, said the state is experiencing an increase in Hepatitis A infections, which initially started with chronic drug users and has expanded to a much larger population.
According to the CDC, "Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Hepatitis A is very contagious. It is spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or eating contaminated food or drink. Symptoms of hepatitis A can last up to 2 months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice. Most people with hepatitis A do not have long-lasting illness. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated."
From 2018 to 2020, Gaston County reported just 33 total Hepatitis A cases. In contrast, during 2021, the county has already recorded several hundred confirmed cases. Quoting Ellen Wright, Communicable Disease Supervisor for the Gaston County Health Department:
"We've really never seen anything like this. The case numbers are the highest we've seen and continue to climb. While our homeless population, incarcerated individuals, and those using drugs are the most impacted right now, it only takes one person working in a restaurant or other public-facing industry to cause a large-scale community outbreak. We have to do everything we can to get high-risk individuals vaccinated so we can prevent the spread."
It's worth noting that there are several ongoing outbreaks in neighboring states such as South Carolina and Tennessee. So if you're homeless, using drugs, or in any other situation that puts you at an increased risk of catching hepatitis A, it might be worth following CDC advice and getting vaccinated.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a medical professional before getting vaccinated.
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