DARKE COUNTY — The Darke County General Health District is urging area residents to be immunized for Hepatitis A after reporting five cases of the disease this year alone in Darke County.
Hepatitis A outbreaks have been occurring in multiple states across the United States, including several bordering Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health declared a statewide community outbreak for Hepatitis A on June 22. As of Sept. 4, Ohio reported 327 confirmed cases within the state.
The two hardest-hit counties in Ohio are Montgomery County (64 cases) and Lawrence County (51 cases).
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 be spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.
The Health Department cautions that while anyone is at risk of getting Hepatitis A, priority groups for prevention include:
• Men who have sex with men
• People who use street drugs whether they are injected or not
• People who are incarcerated
• People experiencing homelessness
• People who have traveled to other areas of the U.S. currently experiencing outbreaks
• People having contact with individuals in the priority groups
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 severe illness lasting several months.
People who believe that they are at high risk for the Hepatitis A infection or who may have already been exposed to the infection should contact their healthcare provider or local health department immediately.
The Darke County Health District Clinic is open Tuesdays from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. for those wishing to be immunized. For further information, call 937-548-4196 or visit the department’s website at http://darkecountyhealth.org/.