CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state chief health officer in West Virginia says a majority of the confirmed Hepatitis cases have used drugs.
“We’re finding that of the 73 confirmed cases, 67 of them have some history of drug use,” Dr. Rahul Gupta said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
The cases are part of a nationwide Hepatitis A outbreak. Gupta said in addition to the 73 cases in West Virginia, the state Department of Health and Human Resources is also investigating another dozen cases.
A large number of the cases have been in Kanawha and Putnam counties. Others have been in Cabell, Lincoln, Wayne and Wyoming counties.
The most recent case was confirmed in Kanawha County Tuesday. A food service worker at O’Charley’s at the Shops at Trace Fork has the disease. The county has had three confirmed cases involving a restaurant since February.
Gupta said Hepatitis A can be spread through human contact whether you work with food or dining at a restaurant. He said it’s important to take precautions.
“Making sure that every chance we get to wash our hands regardless of who you are, whether you’re preparing food or you’re consuming food, it’s critical in order to stop this,” he said.
The disease can also be spread through sexual contact, household contacts like sharing utensils and drinking out of the same glass and intravenous drug use.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, but Gupta said some people may have pre-existing conditions.
Gupta said 51 out of the 73 people with the disease were hospitalized.
Currently, the DHHR is working to identify people who are more prone to catch the disease — such as drug users and the homeless.
“Those are people who need the vaccine that we recommend,” he said.
The average person does not need the Hepatitis A vaccine, Gupta said. He suggests frequent hand washing and not making contact with people who have the disease.
“People don’t need to panic. They need to understand that this is something that can be prevented,” he said.