PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley were able to share their thoughts and concerns about the Hepatitis A virus on Thursday.
The Mid Ohio-Valley Health Department and the Bureau for Public Health hosted two town hall events called “Stop the Spread of Hepatitis A” at the South Parkersburg Baptist Church Auditorium. Carrie Brainard, the Public Information Officer for the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said they had a good turnout.
“We had a lot of good questions,” she said. “People seemed to be happy that we were able to answer questions. It’s cold so some people didn’t come out. I think the people that came out were people that work with the community and know of the ones that are high risk. Then there were others that were there just because they are community members and they want to know what is going on and to be able to take care of themselves.”
The two events were at 10 a.m. and 7 Thursday evening. It was a town hall setting with panelists that discussed an overview of Hepatitis A and efforts to curb the spread. Everyone was given the chance to speak and ask questions.
Brainard said one of the popular questions was who should get the vaccine for the virus, which they encouraged everyone to get. She did say there is an at-risk population for the virus including the homeless, drug users, men having sex with men, and anyone in contact with someone who may be using drugs.
She also said people were worried about their chances of getting it at restaurants as it can be transmitted through contaminated food. A restaurant in Beckley recently announced that all employees must get the Hepatitis A vaccination.
“Moderate to slim chances,” Brainard said of those chances of getting it at a restaurant. “We were also encouraging the general public to get the vaccine cause then they are protected, they won’t have to worry about it.”
The vaccine comes in two doses where the first dose gives a person 95-percent protection and the second covers 99.9-percent protection, according to Brainard. The doses are given six months apart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the clinical case definition for Hepatitis A is the discrete onset of symptoms consistent with hepatitis such nausea, anorexia, fever, malaise, or abdominal pain, and either jaundice or elevated serum aminotransferase levels.
Brainard said there were 268 reported cases of Hepatitis A in the Mid Ohio-Valley area in 2018. According to the CDC, Hepatitis A rates in the United States have declined by more than 95% since Hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995.
Handwashing exhibits took center stage at the event as well. Gwen Crum with the West Virginia Extension office offered a handwashing station to show how effective people have washed their hands.
This was the first town hall event of its kind for Hepatitis A in the Parkersburg area.