Wayne County now a nation leader for Hepatitis A infections

RICHMOND, Ind. – Wayne County is now one of the country’s leaders when it comes to cases of Hepatitis A.

So far this year, there have been 85 cases of Hep A in Wayne County, the most cases in all of Indiana. Officials with the Wayne County Health Department say there have seen roughly 14 new cases emerge within the last week or so.

“Wayne County is experiencing a huge problem with Hepatitis A right now,” environmental health specialist supervisor Mark Linderman said.

According to Linderman, a big part of the problem in Wayne County circles around education. He says many people either don’t know about Hepatitis A, don’t know how it’s contracted, or don’t know how to prevent it.

“Believing that it just comes from restaurants is a mistake. You can get hepatitis A from touching anything that’s infected with Hepatitis A, be that money, or a keyboard, door knobs, or whatever." Linderman said.

“Hepatitis A is not a food borne illness. It is a fecal oral illness that anybody can get from anyplace regardless of age, occupation or what have you,” he added.

The 85 infections now places Wayne County at No. 10 on the list of nationwide infections.  Statewide 414 cases of Hep A have been reported. There has also been 180 hospitalizations and 1 death due to the disease, according to the state health department.

“ The best thing you can do to protect yourself is wash your hands. And limit the time you touch your face with your hands, especially if they’re not washed,” Linderman said.

Linderman recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water as a way to prevent the spread of Hep A. To help slow down infection rates, Linderman says the health department is looking at ideas like running PSA’s during TV commercials and at movie theaters.

They’re also planning to launch a social media campaign to hopefully reach as many people as possible.

“Right now, we just have to tackle it one day at a time,” he said.

The Wayne County Health department also offers vaccines for Hepatitis A. Linderman says the vaccine is offered to those with and without insurance.

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