(BLOOMINGTON) – For the second time in a month, IU Health Community Health, in collaboration with the Monroe County Public Health Department, is administering free Hepatitis A vaccines to individuals who ate at either of two local restaurants on specific days.
Amy Meek, Clinical Manager of IU Health Monroe County Public Health Clinic, says the clinic has been working diligently since last fall to prevent the outbreak in this area.
“We have conducted over 35 different community outreaches as of this week to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A, ” she added.
The latest notification went out on Friday, Feb. 1 from the health department, alerting residents who ate at Bloomington-based Yumble Restaurant on Jan. 24 that a vaccination clinic would be offered today to prevent the hepatitis A virus. The vaccine should be administered no later than Feb. 7.
One month ago, the clinic vaccinated more than 1,100 individuals related to another case of hepatitis A.
The collaboration of the Monroe County Health Department and IU Health allows more resources to be available to protect the community. This relationship goes back more than 20 years and is key to quick community responses. Meek, who has been with IU Health Community Health for nine years, says that this outbreak has been going on for a year now and hopes that the public will be proactive and take steps to prevent further spread.
As of Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health “outbreak” data shows 959 cases of the virus. Since May of 2018, 20 cases have been confirmed in Monroe County.
“It’s been happening nationwide for the last year with neighboring states seeing an increase since 2017. We have known it would eventually make its way to southern Indiana, Meek added. “The best way to prevent disease is to get vaccinated and practice good handwashing. That’s the primary way to prevent the virus, which finds its origin in fecal-oral transfer. In other countries, it’s found in unsafe water supplies. In the United States, Hepatitis A is not common
and can occur when someone with the virus does not practice proper handwashing. Although anyone
can get Hepatitis A, those most at risk in this outbreak are:
- People who use illicit drugs (injection and non-injection)
- Homeless individuals
- Those who are in jail or prison
- Men who have sex with men
- Close direct contacts of at-risk individuals (living in the same household, sexual contact, sharing
- needles or “works”)
Penny Caudill, Monroe County Health Department Administrator “We are being extra cautious. When any food service worker becomes ill there is a risk to the public, we are making sure we are as transparent as possible in getting this information out. The local restaurants have been very great to work with.”
Registered Nurse Jaema Kelly with IU Health Community Health, prepares a vaccination for hepatitis A for a clinic offered today through the Monroe County Public Health Department. The clinic is the second within a month, offered to protect patrons who ate at two area restaurants in 2019 on specific dates.
The first shot of vaccine, often referred to as Hepatitis A, is 95 percent effective, with a second shot given to provide lifetime immunity, Meek says. Children in Indiana, since 2014, are vaccinated when entering kindergarten, meaning fewer children are susceptible to the spread.
Some hepatitis A infection signs include fatigue, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. Symptoms typically appear within 15 to 50 days of exposure. A blood test can determine if a person has the virus.
“Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver and if you have other chronic diseases, the disease can become very serious and even fatal. Nearly half of the infected persons in Indiana have needed hospitalization,” Meek added.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by getting the two-dose vaccine, always washing hands with soap and water after using the restroom, after swimming and before during and after food preparation. In addition, all produce should be washed before eating it. Other areas to watch out for include areas where diapers are changed and when traveling outside the U.S.
Additional information can be obtained on the Centers for Disease Control website at: cdc.gov/hepatitis.