Hepatitis A cases climb in Jefferson County

wwny Hepatitis A cases climb in Jefferson County

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County Public Health has seen eight cases of hepatitis A since July. Three were discovered last week.

Hepatitus A is an inflammation of the liver and causes flu-like symptoms.

"It's concerning that we haven't gotten a lid on it. We've vaccinated over 100 people so far, but that's a good start, but we really need to reach the population that is using drugs that are really difficult to reach," said Faith Lustik, Jefferson County health planner.

Lustik says the outbreak involves IV drugs user and people who have had contact with them.

Three people have been hospitalized in Jefferson County. The vaccine is not required to go to school in New York state.

So some people may not have gotten the shots and that's where there could be some concern on how the outbreak could spread further.

"If one of these cases has contact with a baby, who then gets hepatitis, and then that child spreads it because fecal-oral spreads it to other people, so we really want to get a lid on it before it gets out of control," said Lustik.

To help it not get out of control, public health is turning to community groups which help drug addicts, like Anchor Recovery, a way to protect them, a way to educate them.

"We put them out in front so that people could see them. That would give anybody an opportunity to have conversation and when we see people with maybe symptoms we send them either to the ER or public health. We talk to people about the safety of hand washing and cleanliness," said Wanda Holtz, director, Anchor Recovery Center.

Hepatitis A cases are also high in neighboring Oswego County. There have been nine cases linked to drug users since July. Officials say both Jefferson and Oswego counties only had two cases of the virus in 2018.

Lustik says the two counties are working together to stop the virus from spreading and that anyone who is at risk should call their doctor to make sure they’re up to date on their shots or to get vaccinated.

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