Hepatitis A Outbreak Awareness
Heather Leisy, MD, MBA, MPH
South Carolina is experiencing a statewide hepatitis A outbreak, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Current hepatitis A infection rates are 30 times higher and rising compared to usual numbers of infection. Those at higher risk of infection include people who use illicit drugs, experience homelessness, have been recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men.
Hepatitis A is a virus that attacks the liver causing illness which may lead to hospitalization or death. Some of the more common symptoms of the illness are fever, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, clay-colored bowel movements, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, and jaundice.
Even before the onset of any symptoms, the virus can spread between persons by contact or through handling of shared objects like drug paraphernalia. The spread can be reduced through proper handwashing and vaccination.
In addition to recommending vaccination to these high-risk groups, individuals with chronic liver diseases (cirrhosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C), who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common, or who have close contact, care for, or live with someone with hepatitis A should also be vaccinated.
The vaccination is 95 percent effective in protecting a healthy adult against hepatitis A for several years. For lifelong protection a second dose is recommended six months after the first. The vaccination can be obtained from your HopeHealth provider or by scheduling an appointment at a DHEC county health department. DHEC is providing the vaccination at no cost to individuals at higher risk.
Dr. Heather Leisy joined HopeHealth in June 2019 as the director of preventive medicine. She provides preventive medical care at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and researches and implements methods to improve patient outcomes.