Hepatitis on rise in Ohio

SIDNEY — The Sidney-Shelby County Board of Health has announced that there have been no cases of hepatitis A in Shelby County in 2018.

However, Ohio has seen an increase in cases this year linked to certain risk factors. Therefore, the local health department is encouraging people with these risk factors to get vaccinations against the disease.

People at a greater risk for hepatitis A include those who live with or care for someone infected with the virus; travelers to countries where the virus is prevalent; men who have sex with men; people who use street drugs, whether they are injected or not; people with blood-clotting factor disorders; people with chronic liver disease and household members and other close contacts of adopted children newly arrived from countries where hepatitis A is common.

Hepatitus A is a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to liver damage. The disease usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter even in small amounts from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. It can also spread through close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex.

Symptoms include feeling tired, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. People with hepatitis A can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Most people recover without any complications, but the disease may lead to liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in adults older than 50 and in people who have other liver diseases.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting the vaccine. Other ways to reduce risks are by washing hands with soap and warm water after using the restroom, changing diapers and before and after handling food.

Individuals who are at risk should contact their doctors or the health department at 498-7249.