Health & Wellness

Planning to Visit Kentucky or Michigan? Get the Hep A Vaccine

Both states are reporting an outbreak of Hepatitis A

By Katrina Caruso

Anyone planning to travel to the states of Kentucky or Michigan should consider getting the vaccine that protects against Hepatitis A. In the last six months, Kentucky has reported more than 400 cases of the highly contagious viral liver disease (the annual average is about 20), mostly in Louisville, site of the recent Kentucky Derby. Michigan has seen more than 800 cases, 25 of which proved fatal.

The number of cases is also up in southern Indiana—just across the Ohio River from Louisville—where 77 cases have been reported since January 2018, and above-average numbers are being reported in Ohio and West Virginia, which also border Kentucky.

Officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health are concerned that the outbreak may get worse before things improve. The outbreak began in California about two years ago. According to a mandate passed in December 2017—just after the outbreak was declared in Kentucky—all students in that state will have to be vaccinated before the start of the 2018–2019 school year; Indiana has mandated vaccination for schoolchildren since 2014.

Foodies should particularly be prudent, because the virus has been reported in several restaurants in these areas. Workers in the food industry are not currently required to be vaccinated.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite or stomach ache, and nausea, and may also be followed by jaundice after a few symptomatic days. Symptoms typically last several weeks. Once exposed to the dissease, people may become ill 15 to 50 days afterwards. Recovery time can be quick and the disease doesn’t typically result in long-term liver damage.

The vaccine is easily available from a health care provider. Apart from getting a shot, it’s important to wash hands before and after food preparation and eating, along with washing hands after using the restroom.

Photo: iStock/scyther5.