by Kate Evans
A suspected case of Hepatitis A in Morgan County was determined not to be a case of the virus after investigation, said Berkeley County/Morgan County Health Department nurse Angie Gray on Monday morning.
Berkeley County still has three cases of Hepatitis A.
The number of acute hepatitis A virus cases in West Virginia is now at 451, according to information from the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health.
Some 303 people—accounting for 67.2% of the cases—have been hospitalized. One person in Kanawha County with multiple medical conditions died from the virus.
No cases have occurred yet in Jefferson, Hampshire, Mineral, Hardy, Grant and Pendleton Counties. The number of West Virginia counties affected by the outbreak has risen since May from eight counties to 18 counties.
As of July 6, there have been 259 cases in Kanawha County, 94 cases in Cabell County, 55 cases in Putnam County, 15 cases in Wayne County and five cases each in Mason and Wayne Counties. Counties that reported fewer than five cases are Berkeley, Calhoun, Greenbrier, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Nicholas, Raleigh, Randolph and Wyoming, with McDowell being the newest county affected.
Most case increases have occurred in IV and non-IV drug users, homeless or transient/mobile individuals, those recently incarcerated or individuals co-infected with hepatitis C. A history of drug use has been noted in around 70% of the confirmed state cases.
Gray said that hepatitis A transmission in this area is occurring in blood-borne person to person transmission. Most cases are usually spread by the fecal-oral route, which includes close household contact with someone with the hepatitis A virus.
The virus can also spread through contaminated food or by sharing drinks. It’s important to wash hands before preparing or eating food and after using the rest room along with thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and staying home when sick, she said.
Food establishments are directed to ensure that employees are washing their hands before preparing food and after restroom use and using safe food handling practices such as wearing gloves when preparing food. Surfaces must also be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A can be contracted by eating food, drinking water, or putting something in your mouth that has been contaminated with fecal matter from a person with hepatitis A.
The virus is easily spread through close sexual contact and household contacts and through needle sharing. Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and a person can be sick for several weeks. Death can occur in some cases.
Not all people infected with hepatitis A experience illness. Symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, belly pain, feeling tired, fever, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, pale-colored feces, and joint pain. Most people recover fully after illness.
Health Department officials are pushing to vaccinate high risk individuals along with the first responders that have contact with them.
High-risk individuals include persons that use injected and non-injected recreational drugs, homeless people, men who have sexual contact with other men and those that have been recently incarcerated in the past six weeks.
Gray said that anyone wanting immunity from the virus can get vaccinated for hepatitis A which will give them protection during this outbreak.
Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to the virus should call or see a health professional right away as the virus can be easily spread one to two weeks before symptoms show.
Contact the Morgan County Health Department at 304-258-1513 or call your health care provider for more information.