ECPHD: 14 confirmed cases of hepatitis A diagnosed in Edgar County

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A total of 14 confirmed cases of hepatitis A, as well as one suspect case still under investigation, have been reported in Edgar County as of February, according to the Edgar County Public Health Department. 

The 14 cases are connected to a larger statewide outbreak. 

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, on average, 70 cases of hepatitis A are reported in Illinois each year. A total of 97 cases were confirmed statewide in 2018. So far in 2019, 32 cases have been reported with 17 of those cases associated with the statewide outbreak. 

“We continue to receive new reports of hepatitis A cases throughout Edgar County,” Jean McConkey, RN, Director of Nursing at ECPHD. “We urge those at highest risk of infection to seek out hepatitis A vaccination; this includes people who use drugs, men who  have sex with men, homeless individuals and those who feel they may have been exposed or who have worked with high-risk populations.”

Hepatitis A is an infection that can damage the liver, and is passed easily from person to person through food, water, drug use and sexual contact. It is a vaccine-preventable illness.

Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements and joint pain. 

McConkey urged anyone who has symptoms to see their doctor or emergency room immediately. 

“Individuals who may be infected with hepatitis A, but do not seek medical treatment, could be exposing dozens more people that health officials may be unable to reach,” McConkey said. “To help stop the spread of the disease and a larger outbreak, people who are infected or think they may be infected need to get treatment immediately so we can identify others who could become sick.”

Those at risk for contacting hepatitis A should talk with their local health department or healthcare provider about vaccination. The vaccine is available for free or at a reduced cost at the Edgar County Health Department, as well as a number of other health departments throughout the state. 

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