Hepatitis A infections are a concern for state health department

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The Mississippi State Department of Health says that the state is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A.

“An outbreak occurs when we see an increased number of cases greater than what is normally expected over time,” state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers told WAPT. “Since April, we’ve seen 23 cases in Mississippi. We investigate all reported cases to identify their contacts and provide vaccination.”

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta says 25 states have seen outbreaks of the disease since 2016. As of July 26, 2019, states have reported 22,566 cases, of which 59 percent required hospitalization. Risk of dying from hepatitis A is less than 1 percent; 221 deaths have been reported nationwide.

“It can make you pretty sick, but most people can recover without any long term problems,” Byers told WLBT.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver transmitted by close personal contact, including sexual contact, or consumption of food or water contaminated by an infected person, the MSDH website states. Hepatitis A causes fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice for up to two months of infection.

Vaccination is the best protection against hepatitis A infection, MSDH says, and the department strongly recommends that people in high-risk groups be vaccinated.

In Mississippi, the outbreak is mainly affecting people in these groups:

  • People reporting drug use (IV and non-IV drugs)
  • People who are currently or were recently in jail or prison
  • People with unstable housing, or who are homeless
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who have been in close contact with someone infected with hepatitis A

For more information, go to the MSDH website.