By Joseph Lyell —

The Kentucky Department of Health declared that an acute outbreak of Hepatitis A has occurred in multiple Kentucky counties, including Jefferson County.

As of November, there were 31 reported cases of Hepatitis A in Kentucky, 19 of which were in Jefferson County. U of L’s Director of Pharmacy Utilization Jessie Morgan said he was not aware of any reported cases at the university.

Morgan said the primary risk factors for the disease are ingestion of contaminated food or water, or direct contact with an infectious person. Injecting drug users and individuals traveling to areas with known outbreaks run a greater risk of contracting the disease. Poor sanitation and personal hygiene can also increase the risk of contraction.

Morgan noted that causal contact in the typical office, factory or school setting does not transmit the virus.

In an announcement from the U of L Human Resources Department on Dec. 6,  Morgan reminded faculty and staff that the Hepatitis A vaccine is fully covered under the university’s health insurance plan.

The vaccine is given in two injections, six months apart. Morgan said the first dose does provide protection against the virus, but the duration of its protection is unknown. “The two part series offers protection for approximately 20 years,” he said.

Morgan said there is no specific cure for the disease, because the body will clear the virus on its own. Because of this, treatments for Hepatitis A focus on maintaining comfort and managing symptoms.

“Earliest symptoms include fatigue, sudden nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs, clay colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, dark urine and joint pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes),” Morgan said. Symptoms usually last about two months, but can be prolonged, or the disease can relapse for up to six months.

Morgan’s advice to those who think they might have contracted Hepatitis A is to visit a doctor, rest and manage nausea. “Avoid alcohol and use medications with care as many of them are metabolized via the liver, which is the organ of the body that is affected by the virus,” Morgan said.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal