Uptick in hepatitis A cases seen in Upstate, health officials say

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(WSPA) – In May 2019, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials declared a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A, and said the recent increases in hepatitis A cases has “only been observed in the Upstate region.”

On Tuesday, DHEC officials released the number of hepatitis A cases reported by counties in the Upstate since Jan. 1, 2020:

  • Abbeville – 7
  • Anderson – 94
  • Cherokee – 10
  • Greenville – 34
  • Greenwood – 52
  • Laurens – 8
  • Oconee – 15
  • Pickens – 12
  • Spartanburg – 19

The number of cases in the Upstate since Jan. 1 totaled 251.

DHEC officials said part of their response to the outbreak was to investigate all reported cases including contact tracing, have educational campaigns and vaccine outreach efforts for high-risk groups.

According to DHEC, COVID-19 has made the control efforts used in their response to the hepatitis A outbreak more difficult.

“We’ve seen about 70 percent in the past eight weeks that are drug users. So that’s a common factor. They’re coming in through the ED with nausea vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain,” said Shannon Borger, Infection Prevention Nurse with AnMed Health.

Health leaders believe it’s being transferred through IV drugs, sharing of needles, person-to person contact, high-risk sexual activity, and more.

“You can get it through close contact, you can get it through food, you know sharing things like that,” Borger said.

That’s why Anderson School District Five’s director of culinary services said when delivering meals to students, their staff members are taking extra safety measures. The director said they’ve been following CDC recommendations since before the COVID-19 outbreak, as well.

“They’ve always washed their hands, they’ve always worn gloves to prepare food. And through the ServSafe training, they’re very familiar with viruses and bacteria, and the symptoms they have to watch out for, ” said Sharon Hunt, Director of Culinary Services for Anderson School District 5.

“There’s no bare hand contact ever with food,” Hunt added.

AnMed Health leaders are seeing impacts in people who are in their mid 20’s to late 40’s, but right now, they want everyone to be careful.

“If you’re going to engage in those types of behaviors, protect yourself,” Borger said.

If you have symptoms, health leaders said it’s important for you to contact your healthcare provider to be screened and vaccinated as soon as possible.

DHEC investigates all reports of Hepatitis A in the State, and they make direct reports to those potentially exposed.

AnMed Health leaders said they will continue to work with DHEC officials, in hopes of stopping the spread.

For more information on hepatitis A and the current outbreak, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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