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Health Department Reports Hepatitis A Cases

OSWEGO COUNTY - Oswego County health officials are reporting a cluster of hepatitis A cases in the county. The health department reports that 22 cases have been confirmed since July, which is significantly more than usual.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Mild cases of hepatitis A don't require treatment. Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage. But in some cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death.

Many people with hepatitis A have no symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually appear two to six weeks after exposure. Symptoms can include tiredness, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, and yellowing of the eyes and skin.

"People can get hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person sick with hepatitis A. Close contact includes having sexual contact with someone with hepatitis A, using recreational drugs (injected or not injected) with someone with hepatitis A, and living with or caring for individuals infected with hepatitis A," stated Jodi Martin, Supervising Public Health Nurse with the Oswego County Health Department.

Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine-preventable illness. The best way to prevent HAV infection is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is typically given in two shots. The first shot is followed by a booster shot six months later.

"Anyone who has been exposed to someone with hepatitis A should get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine can help prevent infection if given within two weeks of exposure," said Diane Oldenburg, Senior Public Health Educator with the Oswego County Health Department.

Practicing good hand washing and personal hygiene - including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food - plays an important role in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.

Healthcare providers in Oswego County have been notified of this cluster and will screen for risk factors and test patients presenting with symptoms consistent with the disease. Those with symptoms of hepatitis A should seek immediate medical attention.

Anyone who has had contact with someone diagnosed with hepatitis A is recommended to receive hepatitis A vaccine. The Oswego County Health Department, located at 70 Bunner St., Oswego, holds walk-in vaccination clinics on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. No appointment is needed. The department also holds a vaccination clinic the third Tuesday of every month, by appointment only, at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski.

For more information about getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, or signs and symptoms of hepatitis A, contact the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3547. Information about the disease is also available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview.