Jefferson County is fighting an outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV), officials with the Jefferson County Department of Health announced Tuesday. Three cases of the disease have been reported, which is the state threshold to be designated an outbreak county. Officials say the designation allows for “rapid mobilization of resources and planning at the state and local level to prevent a larger outbreak from occurring.”
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), the number of HAV cases statewide continues to rise since the outbreak began in Jackson County in September 2018. The most recent data shows 132 cases, with the highest monthly total reported last month.
Alabama is one of 29 states experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Other states, including Kentucky and Ohio, have reported thousands of HAV cases.
According to the ADPH, the hepatitis A virus is spread “person-to-person through fecal-oral contact among unvaccinated persons.” Those most at risk include users of injection or non-injection drugs, people who are currently or formerly incarcerated, and those who engage in oral or anal sex.
HAV infection can cause inflammation of the liver that results in symptoms including fever, tiredness, and loss of appetite.
Officials with the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) say they have been preparing for a potential HAV outbreak in recent weeks and are working with community partners to be proactive.
“The general public should not be overly alarmed unless you are in a high-risk group,” David Hicks, JCDH deputy health officer, said in an email. “We still strongly encourage hepatitis A vaccination and proper hand-washing with soap and water to significantly reduce the spread of this illness.”
Residents of Jefferson County can receive the HAV vaccine free of charge at the JCDH through the end of September.