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Get Vaccinated If You Are At Risk For Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A isn’t exactly the virus everybody is keeping an eye on this year — except, in Chautauqua County, for the Chautauqua County Health Department.

Typically, the county has one or two cases a year, but the past year has seen 50 hepatitis A cases in the county. That total represents 9.4% of the hepatitis A cases in all of New York state for 2021.

No one is talking about a COVID-level reaction, in part because hepatitis A is an acute condition instead of a chronic one. But a hepatitis A infection is no day at the beach, either. Symptoms can develop from 15 to 50 days following exposure and it is common for people to spread the virus when they show no symptoms. Symptoms may include fever fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain or jaundice.

The virus spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. This can happen from eating at a restaurant as well as sharing food or drink. People at risk for hepatitis A include people with direct contact with someone who has a hepatitis A infection, people who use drugs, homeless individuals, and men who have sexual contact with men.

“We have already responded to one Hepatitis A outbreak stemming from a local restaurant, and it’s very likely that we could see another in the near future. This is a serious disease, and any person without immunity is at risk when community transmission is high,” Christine Schuyler, county health and human services director, said recently.

Vaccines have been included in the CDC’s recommended child immunization schedule since the year 2000 and is typically given at 12-24 months. Those who have not been vaccinated should consider doing so, and those who are in the at-risk community should take extra precautions.

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