Hepatitis A cases at 22 in Yakima County and still rising – Yakima Herald-Republic

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 3:49 pm

As expected, the number of confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Yakima County continues to increase.

There have been 22 confirmed hepatitis A cases in the county as of Thursday, up from 18 on Dec. 3, according to the Yakima Health District, with the majority of the cases tied to people experiencing homelessness and those using illicit drugs.

One confirmed case has no identifiable risk factors, district spokesman Nathan Johnson said in an email Friday.

It is not uncommon to have an occasional hepatitis A case with no identifiable risk factors during an outbreak. However, we are recommending that everyone gets their hepatitis A vaccine if they have not gotten it yet, Johnson said.

The health district, in partnership with the Union Gospel Mission and Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, has been vaccinating people since the outbreak was reported in early November. Health officials also have been working closely with the Camp Hope homeless encampment and offering vaccines at clean needle exchanges.

The number of cases will likely continue to increase and cases will likely continue into spring, health district officials have said. The incubation period for hepatitis A is 15 to 50 days. Someone can be infected and not know they are spreading it, said Melissa Sixberry, director of disease control for the health district.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease usually transmitted when someone unknowingly ingests the virus from touching objects or consuming food contaminated with stool from someone who is infected. It also can be spread by close personal contact.

Symptoms include yellow skin or eyes, dark urine and/or pale stool, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting and abdominal pain. Cases often result in overnight hospitalizations.

The best protection is the hepatitis A vaccine and frequent hand-washing, health officials say. Anyone can get the vaccine by contacting their doctor.

Genetic testing found the hepatitis A strain in Yakima County is related to a hepatitis outbreak in Spokane County. As of Dec. 17, the Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 70 cases of hepatitis A since April. Sixberry has said Spokane and King counties still have active outbreaks.

As of Dec. 19, there were 157 hepatitis A cases in Washington state, 82 hospitalizations and two deaths, according to the state Department of Health. The state first announced a multi-county outbreak on July 30. Other states also have reported outbreaks, primarily among persons experiencing homelessness and people who use illicit drugs.

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Hepatitis A cases at 22 in Yakima County and still rising - Yakima Herald-Republic

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