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2/18/19 blog post

what's the deal with Hepatitis A?

Ohio is under a large Hepatitis A outbreak

guest blog by Bethany Linegang, infection preventionist at Dayton Children's Hospital

You may have seen recent headlines about food service workers at Disneyland and a taco shop in Columbus who tested positive for a disease called Hepatitis A. As a person who works with a kids and their contagious diseases, I know a lot of times it’s the kids who come home from school or daycare and spread germs to the adults. But this new outbreak in our area is actually starting in adults and spreading to the kids – so it’s an area in which we need to take action.

Ohio is in the middle of a large outbreak of Hepatitis A, a liver infection that can spread quickly from person to person. Three counties surrounding Dayton Children’s make up the majority of the cases, with Montgomery County reporting 193 cases. This outbreak seems to be directly related to the increase in drug use and homelessness in our area, as Hepatitis A can easily be spread through needles and unprotected sex.

However eating contaminated food is also a prime way to transmit the disease. If an infected person prepares food or drinks without properly washing their hands, they can easily spread the illness. Outbreaks in surrounding areas have been linked to eating at restaurants where people with Hepatitis A work. Our little people fall into those at risk from contaminated food at restaurants, and our numbers of infected children is rising. 

The symptoms of Hepatitis A are fever, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, gray-colored stools and loss of appetite.  It can be a mild illness or last for a long time and cause damage to your liver.  But there is good news here. You can avoid getting Hepatitis A with a simple shot.

With my public health background, I knew that the Hepatitis A vaccine had been developed in the late 90’s, and I thought my children had them as part of their childhood immunization schedule.  I asked their pediatrician when we started having cases in the area, and found out that they were not vaccinated against Hepatitis A, and to make my kiddos really happy with me, we remedied that right there.

In 2006, the two shot series of Hepatitis A immunizations became part of the pediatric immunization schedule for children 12-23 months of age.  If your child was born after 2007, they are likely immunized if all vaccinations are up to date.  If your child was born prior to 2007, they may not be covered.  Double check with your pediatrician and get your child up to date on their Hepatitis A vaccination.  For adults, check with your physician to see if they carry this vaccine in their offices, and if not the local health departments should have availability. 

Learn more about Hepatitis A symptoms, diagnosis and treatment