CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Chief Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta says the national outbreak of hepatitis A, which has hit Kanawha and Putnam counties the hardest in West Virginia, is another reminder why good hygiene is very important in everyday life.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau of Public Health is providing resources to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to deal with the outbreak following a request from Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. The bureau has embedded epidemiologists at the department and the state is providing assistance in getting the word out about the hepatitis A vaccine.
The has confirmed 72 cases in Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Putnam, Wayne and Wyoming counties, 64 of those in Kanawha and Putnam counties. Other possible cases remain under investigation.
“This is not something that is transmissible by air but it is something that is transmissible by touch, hands. It’s a oral fecal route,” Gupta said.
Those who are considered high risk need to get the vaccine, Gupta said. High risk are those who use drugs, are homeless, those who have been released from jail in the past six weeks and those who take part in male on male sex.
The vaccine can work even after exposure within a couple of weeks, Gupta said.
“This is an opportunity where even if you think you’ve been exposed act fast and go get your vaccine and it will help protect you,” he said.
Those who aren’t considered high risk can protect themselves by observing general hygiene principles.
“You want to wash hands (with soap and water) both before and after you eat, when you go out to eat, and when you cook,” Gupta said. “This is not a time to panic but it is time to be aware of good hygiene and another opportunity to remind us why that good hygiene is critical in everyday life,” he said.
To learn more about hepatitis A or the vaccine, please visit DHHR’s Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology hepatitis A outbreak webpage: www.dide.wv.gov