Bowling Green officials describe Hepatitis A outbreak

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LOUISVILLE and BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- The hepatitis A outbreak in Louisville and other parts of Kentucky is now the worst in the country.

The Courier Journal reports state health officials confirmed Wednesday at least 969 people have contracted the liver disease. State Public Health department Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard says the outbreak is the worst on record across the nation and in Kentucky.

Three of the outbreak's six deaths were in Louisville. Louisville Metro Public Health department spokesman Dave Langdon says officials confirmed 482 cases.

Officials at the Barren River Area Health Department say this is extremely unusual.

"Usually in a year we see less than one percent [of Hepatitis A patients]" said Sharon Ray, manager for the Communicable Disease Team at the Barren River Health Department.

In the past 10 years, South Central Kentucky has had less than 10 cases. This year, however, it's much different story.

In Warren County alone, 13 cases have been confirmed along with one each in Allen, Barren, Butler and Edmonson counties, but Jefferson County tops the leader board with 467.

The reason behind this? Kentucky wasn't prepared.

"Whenever you have the occurrance of the virus, in a specific unvaccinated population, those numbers are going to grow just because of the exposure." Ray said.

A simple vaccination can prevent this and help cut down on this growing epidemic.

Luckily, at phaermacies in the local area, they've seen an uptick in administering the vaccinne.

"I'd say we've probably had 90 some people get vaccinated so far," said Darren Lacefield, owner of CDS Pharmacy in Bowling Green.

The vaccine, doctors say, will prevent any Hepatitis A infection for over a decade if a patient gets both that are recommended.

"Usually it's a two step vaccine," said Lacefield. "The first one you take initially, then you can follow up and get the other one."

Hepatitis A sypmtoms sometimes won't be experienced for days or even weeks after contracting.

Though illicit drug users and homeless top the CDC's charts of most at risk groups, anyone can become infected through several means.

"Transmission can occurr due to close personal contact, in sharing a household, sharing a restroom, food preparation by an infected person, sharing any type of parephienalia,"

Medical advice to stop this outbreak, simple, get vaccinated.

"Definitely better to be proactive than reactive," said Ray.



 
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