COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – Health officials in the Palmetto State announced Monday that the number of hepatitis A cases has steadily increased, making it an outbreak.
The state has seen 86 cases of the contagious liver disease since Nov. 2018, which is four times the number of cases in recent previous years, according to Dr. Linda Bell, S.C. State Epidemiologist and chief of DHEC’s (Department of Health and Environmental Control) Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control.
“By definition, that’s an outbreak, but I do want to make the point that we’ve been monitoring the occurrence of hepatitis A in other states,” Dr. Bell said.
Georgia, for example, reported 170 cases of hepatitis A from January 2018 to March 2019. That’s more than six times higher than the previous year.
In total, Dr. Bell said about 20 states have resolved or are experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks.
She said that in South Carolina, a majority of the cases have been found in those who have a history of substance abuse and those who have experienced homelessness or incarceration.
Dr. Bell also said that because of how the disease is transmitted, it’s not uncommon to see household cases. This is because the disease is generally spread by close personal contact.
Hepatitis A can also spread through fecal-oral exposure and exposure to contaminated food or water.
Symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice and dark colored urine can start two weeks to 50 days from initial exposure.
The SCDHEC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children, travelers to certain countries, and people at high risk for infection. Washing hands frequently is another key way to prevent infection, SCDHEC says.
If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis A, the department recommends seeing a health care provider immediately.
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