OSWEGO COUNTY – Oswego County health officials are reporting an outbreak of the hepatitis A virus (HAV) throughout the county.
Since June, there have been 53 confirmed cases of HAV.
“Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral disease,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “So far, the majority of these cases have been associated with at-risk populations; however, due to the nature of the disease, I ask all residents to be diligent about practicing good personal hygiene.”
He added, “Simple practices, like proper handwashing and not sharing utensils or drinking cups, will significantly reduce the risk of getting the virus. If you or your loved ones have symptoms of the disease, please seek medical care immediately and follow your doctor’s instructions if vaccination is recommended.”
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.
People who are at an increased risk for getting HAV include those with direct contact with a person confirmed to have the virus, international travelers, men who have sex with men, substance abuse users (either injecting or non-injecting) and people experiencing homelessness.
Many people with hepatitis A have no symptoms.
However, if symptoms do occur, they usually appear two to six weeks after exposure.
They can include fever, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools and yellowing of the eyes and skin.
“People can get hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person sick with hepatitis A,” said Jodi Martin, supervising public health nurse with the Oswego County Health Department. “Close contact includes having sexual contact with someone with hepatitis A, using recreational drugs (injected or not injected) with someone with hepatitis A, and living with or caring for individuals infected with hepatitis A.”
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness. The best way to prevent the infection is through vaccination with the HAV vaccine. The vaccine is typically given in two shots. The first shot is followed by a booster shot six months later.
“Anyone who has been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should get vaccinated as soon as possible. A single vaccine shot can help prevent infection if given within two weeks of exposure,” said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator with the Oswego County Health Department.
Not sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or needles and practicing good personal hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food, all play an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
The Oswego County Health Department’s Preventative Services Division investigates all confirmed cases to identify close contacts for timely vaccination.
In addition, the department has partnered with several agencies around the county to increase vaccination rates among at-risk populations.
They are working closely with local healthcare providers, who are screening for risk factors and testing patients presenting with symptoms of the disease under the guidance of the state Department of Health.
Anyone experiencing signs or symptoms of hepatitis A, or who has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with the virus, or who is an at-risk individual should contact their healthcare provider or the Oswego County Health Department 315-349-3547 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information about getting vaccinated, or signs and symptoms of HAV, call the health department or go to https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview