Starting this summer, Wayne County has seen a meteoric rise in cases of hepatitis A this year, now totaling over 100 infections. This makes us the leader in the state (most Indiana counties have less than five cases a year), and one of the top ten counties in the entire country – but most of those other counties have populations of hundreds of thousands or even millions. We have only 70,000. And there have been several prominent cases – a worker at Casey’s General Store in Centerville and a food preparer at No. 9 Grill in Cambridge City. Scares like this have prompted over 2,000 vaccinations in the county.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver, and in some cases can badly damage it. The virus spreads from person to person in a variety of ways, but most commonly through fecal-oral contamination – usually by eating something handled by an infected person who did not wash their hands after using the restroom. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, stomach pain, or even jaundice, but these typically do not appear until after seven weeks of infection. Generally, the infection clears up after two months (so far, there has been only one fatality this year in Indiana). Vaccinations are the best way to prevent infection.
With such a growing problem, naturally there will be questions about it. And the library has plenty of sources for research, from articles and news stories in our databases, to the entry for Hepatitis A in Up-To-Date, a clinical support resource for making point-of-care decisions. And we have books running the gamut from lay readership like Understanding Hepatitis by Miriam Bloom to ones aimed at medical experts like Viral Hepatitis by Howard C. Thomas. Now, obviously, the free web can be a cauldron of misinformation and half-truths, and a risky source for medical advice. However, there are a few highly credible and comprehensible sites on the internet, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Johns Hopkins Institute, with good write-ups on Hepatitis A.
Locally, the best resource is the Wayne County Health Department. They offer vaccinations (for free to the most at-risk groups; $99 to others, although most insurance providers cover part of this – people with insurance can also get the vaccination at local pharmacies or from their doctor). The vaccination involves an initial shot and then a booster shot six months later. Anyone who is worried about exposure to the virus are encouraged to visit the WCHD’s clinic in downtown Richmond weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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