Indiana health officials warn of possible hepatitis A outbreak, dozens of confirmed cases

HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. – Following a recent, large outbreak of hepatitis A cases in Kentucky, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reports there have been 77 confirmed cases of the virus statewide in 2018. Of those cases, 17 have been confirmed in the past month.

“Normally, fewer than 20 cases of hepatitis A are confirmed in Indiana per year, so the recent increase is concerning to public health officials,” reports Teresa Krupka, Public Health Nurse for the Hendricks County Health Department (HCHD).

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection of the liver. It is most commonly spread through contact with the feces of an infected person. Transmission is presumed to occur person-to-person and through injection drug use.

“People who are most at risk for infection include injection and any other drug users, men who have sex with men, citizens who are currently homeless, and those who were recently incarcerated,” Krupka says.

But she emphasizes anyone could be infected by eating contaminated food or even contact with inanimate objects with small amounts of fecal residue, like a child’s toy.

Since 2014, state law has required that children be vaccinated for hepatitis A before the start of the school year. So, children that are kindergarten age through 3rd grade have likely been vaccinated already.

“The hepatitis A vaccine is a 2-dose series of shots, given six months apart that provides life-long immunity to the virus. Anyone who handles food in schools, hospitals, or other places that feed large groups of people are also highly encouraged to get vaccinated,” says Tammy Brinkman, Director of Public Health Nursing for the HCHD.

According to Dr. David Stopperich, Health Officer for the HCHD, common symptoms of hepatitis A are diarrhea, yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), nausea, vomiting, fatigue, stomach pain, fever, and dark colored urine.

For more information on hepatitis A, please visit the CDC website here.