Charles Hiter, Director of the Pennyrile District Health Department, was in studio Tuesday morning to talk to WPKY about the recent Hepatitis A outbreak in Kentucky and how to stay healthy.

Charles stated that in October of 2017 the Kentucky Department of Public Health declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A with over 1,000 cases reported in the year since. Charles reminded listeners that Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that attacks the liver and is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by an infected person. He also stated that the current strain responsible for the outbreak originally began in the homeless population in Southern California and then made it’s way to and spread through Kentucky from needle sharing among the drug population in the Louisville Metro area. Currently there are no cases in the Pennyrile area, which includes Caldwell, Crittenden, Livingston, Lyon, and Trigg counties, and Charles stated that the best way to keep the number of cases at zero is to consistently practice good hand hygiene and to get the vaccination.

Charles then reminded listeners that state law has changed and all children are now required to receive their Hepatitis A vaccine before the start of school. The Health Department held several vaccine clinics at the beginning of the year, but the Hepatitis A vaccine is a two part vaccine with a six month waiting period between the shots, so many children who received the vaccine less than six months ago will begin school out of tolerance. Therefore the Health Department will be doing another vaccine clinic at the end of August so that children can finish up the vaccine process. The vaccine clinic at the Caldwell County Health Center will be held on Thursday, August 23rd, at their location at 600 South Jefferson Street in Princeton. For more information you can contact them at 270-365-6571.

Charles then stated that symptoms of Hepatitis A begin two to six weeks after infection and can include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, and jaundice. Symptoms can last less than 2 months or up to 6 months and the virus can be potentially fatal to those who already have health complications. Charles again stated that the best way to protect yourself is to practice good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing and eating food, as well as receiving the vaccine. For more information or to schedule an appointment you can contact the Caldwell County Health Department at 270-365-6571.

Charles ended by stating that the Health Department is also conducting back-to-school screenings and physicals for area students, which can be scheduled by calling the Caldwell County Health Department.

You can catch the full interview with Charles Hiter below.