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Hepatitis outbreak can be managed

The sharp spike in the number of hepatitis A cases may be concerning, but most people should not be concerned about contracting the infection if proper precautions are taken.

The latest state data show 1,000 of the 1,592 reported cases across Kentucky are classified as “illicit drug use + no/unknown homelessness.” Another 189 cases are classified as “homelessness + illicit drug use.”

For schoolchildren as well as those attending day-care centers, two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine are required. And, as Franklin County Health Department Director Judy Mattingly said, “As long as children are current on their hep A vaccination, there’s nothing to worry about, even if they are served by someone who didn’t practice proper hand-washing.”

That statement applies to adults, too.

“For anyone at all who is concerned, get the vaccine,” Mattingly said.

Again, that large numbers of Kentuckians have been infected by hepatitis A may be concerning, but there are ways to stem the spread.

The virus usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also spread when an infected person does not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom or engages in behaviors that increase the risk of infection.

As Kentucky deals with an unprecedented outbreak, we should listen to health professionals. As Mattingly said, the outbreak may not be on the decline, but it can be managed.

The State Journal, Frankfort

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