JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is reporting a hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and is joining surrounding states and others across the country in fighting this national epidemic.
“An outbreak occurs when we see an increased number of cases greater than what is normally expected over time,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “Since April we’ve seen 23 cases in Mississippi. We investigate all reported cases to identify their contacts and provide vaccination.”
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can be spread when a person ingests the virus through food or drink that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person or through close, personal contact (including sexual contact) with an infected person; including sexual contact and sharing or handling objects with someone who is infected.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting; jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes); and stomach pain, low appetite and fever.
“In Mississippi, our most at-risk populations are those who use those who use recreational drugs, are currently in jail or were recently in jail, men who have sex with men, and those with unstable housing or who are homeless,” said Dr. Byers. “Other states are seeing similar trends.”
Hepatitis A can be prevented through a vaccine. Other prevention measures include practicing strong hygiene habits such as thoroughly washing your hands after using the bathroom.
“We are strongly recommending that all persons who are at higher risk get hepatitis A vaccine” said Byers. “Hepatitis A vaccine can be obtained through your provider, pharmacist and at all County Health Departments for uninsured or underinsured persons,” said Dr. Byers.
For more information on hepatitis A, visit the MSDH website at HealthyMS.com/hepA.