Hepatitis A outbreak continues, local counties work to prevent spread

News 10 has followed the climbing number of cases out of Edgar County, Illinois closely. There's now 14 confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus there.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 3:54 PM
Updated: Mar 12, 2019 5:54 PM

CLARK COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - Hepatitis A outbreaks in Illinois and Indiana continue to be a concern for our Wabash Valley counties.

News 10 has followed the climbing number of cases out of Edgar County, Illinois closely. There's now 14 confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus there.

The Indiana State Health Department says Vigo County is now up to 10 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A. The Indiana counties surrounding Vigo don't have any confirmed cases yet. Owen County is up to 5 cases.

But, if you cross over to Clark County, Illinois, it's nearly surrounded by affected counties. Again, Edgar County to the north with 14, Vigo to the east with 10, and Crawford to the south with 1.

Clark County Health Department Administrator Cathy Hayden explains, "We are sitting very good. There are no cases, but there's been an outbreak of Hepatitis A in east central Illinois."

Hayden says her department is working hard to keep her county from becoming a statistic.

She says, "We've reached out to the local jail, to the probation office, to food establishments, since Hepatitis A is easily transmitted via food, and just wanting to promote awareness."

Experts say those at higher risk for Hepatitis A are gay men, those who use drugs by needles, the homeless, and the incarcerated. Hayden says there are a few ways to keep the virus from spreading.

She explains, "It's not so much an aerosolized drop transmission. It is through the bacteria that might be present on the skin, which is why it's so important to wash your hands to remove that."

Hayden says the other big push now is to get at-risk people vaccinated.

She shares, "It has been a struggle just trying to get the word out that the vaccine is free, and it's kind of crazy that it hasn't been taken advantage of."

Hayden says they've given around 15 Hep A vaccines so far this year but would like to give a lot more. 

She says when it comes to preventing the spread of Hepatitis A, health departments can use all the help they can get. Hayden shared there is a resource touring East Central Illinois to help with that. It's the Fifth Street Renaissance Mobile Services Unit.

Hayden explains, "They conduct health screenings on the van, they provide counseling. It's been very helpful, it's just another means to get out in the community and spread the word.

The Fifth Street Renaissance mobile van will be in Clark County on Thursday this week. You can find it parked at the Martinsville Kraemart from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. central time. The van will then move to the Marshall Wal-Mart. It’ll be there from 2:15 - 5.

In the meantime, check with your local health department. Many offer free Hepatitis vaccines to at-risk people. For more information about the virus including signs and symptoms, click here

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