Hepatitis A outbreak: DHEC seeks help from organizations to get high-risk groups vaccinated

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(WSPA) – South Carolina Department of Environmental Control officials said in a news release Thursday that they are working to curb the state’s hepatitis A outbreak by offering vaccines at area health departments, clinics and other locations.

According to SCDHEC’s news release, the hepatitis A outbreak is driven by infections among high-risk groups, including drug users, the homeless population, men who have same-sex relations and incarcerated or recently incarcerated individuals.

SCDHEC officials report that between Nov. 1, 2018 and July 19, there have been 225 hepatitis cases reported across the state.

According to the release, the rise of hepatitis A cases since November 2018 led DHEC to defining the spread of the virus as an outbreak on May 13.

“It is challenging to control hepatitis A outbreaks if those in risk groups don’t seek or have access to immunization services,” Dr. Linda Bell, a physician and state epidemiologist, said. “Many people in high-risk groups cannot or will not visit DHEC clinics. We must go to them.”

“We need organizations and individuals who offer services to these groups to help convince those who need it most to get vaccinated,” Bell said. “We are asking those who operate shelters, drug treatment programs, soup kitchens, jails and prisons, and others who serve or advocate for people in these groups to partner with us.”

Any service providers or advocates willing to help is asked to call a DHEC consultant at 803-898-0861.

“A lot of attention has been given to food handlers who have tested positive, but this is not a foodborne outbreak and the concern is not with the restaurants or the food they serve,” Bell said.

According to the release, officials said the concern is with any individual — some of whom have been food handlers — who have become infected with hepatitis A.

Health officials said most people get hepatitis A by close person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection, including contact with a household member, through sexual contact or by sharing personal items with an infected person.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease and those who get it may feel sick for several weeks, as well as may need hospitalization.

To schedule an appointment for a vaccination, call 855-472-3432 or visit www.scdhec.gov/HealthClinics.

For more information on hepatitis A, click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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