KOKOMO, Ind. – Dozens of local health departments in Indiana are receiving more hepatitis A vaccines to help stop the spread of an outbreak.
Right now, the Indiana Department of Health (ISDH) says there are 220 cases linked to the outbreak across the state. ISDH is trying to provide the vaccine to more high-risk individuals and their request is reaching at least one health department in central Indiana.
Karen Long, a public health nurse with the Howard County Health Department, said the state reached out to them a few weeks ago to let them know they could get more hep-A vaccines. Long said the county has seen less than five reported cases of hep-A, but none of them are linked to this outbreak. She's not very concerned but wants to take proactive steps to make sure the outbreak does not spread to Howard County.
"Our whole focus in public health is to prevent disease rather than respond," she said.
On Wednesday, ISDH confirmed the state's first death related to the hep-A outbreak. 46 percent of the 220 hep-A cased linked to the outbreak required hospitalization. On average, the state has an average of 20 cases of hep-A per year.
As part of its response, ISDH is targeting counties that have a large number of high-risk individuals. High-risk groups include illicit drug users, the homeless, those who are incarcerated and men who have sex with men.
"We started to make some plans at the state’s request to immunize the high-risk population so we put a plan together to do that. We have submitted a partial plan and we are in the process of updating it," Long said.
ISDH sent a letter to 28 counties on June 8, 2018, because the counties were identified as having a significant number of high-risk individuals. They then sent the letter to an additional 13 counties on July 6, 2018. As of June 1, 2018, they have sent vaccine orders to 27 counties in response to a positive hep-A case or as a part of our preventative/outbreak responses.
A spokesperson said they continue to monitor the situation and work to ensure the vaccine is provided to those at greatest risk. Howard County Health Department hopes to get the vaccine soon with plans to set up a closed clinic at the jail.
"A lot of times people who are homeless or one of those categories do not have insurance so those are the people we are trying to reach," said Long.