As Mississippi remains in the midst of a hepatitis A outbreak, the Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting 60 confirmed cases of the virus since April.
The outbreak was originally confirmed by the MSDH in late July due to “an increased number of cases greater than what is normally expected over time.” In 2018, Mississippi had just 13 cases of the virus. This recent sharp increase follows a national trend as well as recent increases in neighboring states.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can be spread when a person ingests the virus through food or drink that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person or through close, personal contact (including sexual contact) with an infected person; including sexual contact and sharing or handling objects with someone who is infected.
The 60 cases in Mississippi are spread out over 23 counties.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting; jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes); and stomach pain, low appetite and fever.
“In Mississippi, our most at-risk populations are those who use those who use recreational drugs, are currently in jail or were recently in jail, men who have sex with men, and those with unstable housing or who are homeless,” state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said while discussing the outbreak in July.
Hepatitis A can be prevented through a vaccine. Other prevention measures include practicing strong hygiene habits such as thoroughly washing your hands after using the bathroom.
“We are strongly recommending that all persons who are at higher risk get hepatitis A vaccine,” Dr. Byers said. “Hepatitis A vaccine can be obtained through your provider, pharmacist and at all County Health Departments for uninsured or underinsured persons,” said Dr. Byers.
For more information on hepatitis A, visit the MSDH website at HealthyMS.com/hepA.