by: Alissa Nelson, Missouri Net
Nationwide, cases of hepatitis A are on the rise. Many states, including Missouri, are currently experiencing outbreaks. Missouri has had more than 400 cases in 35 counties over a nearly two-year period.
The viral infection of the liver can cause loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, and stomach pain. The state says the hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent hepatitis A infection.
The vaccine is a two-dose process. However, the first dose provides 95% protection for up to 11 years for healthy adults. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all Missourians 19 years old and younger who have not received the two-dose hepatitis A vaccine be vaccinated.
Funded by the CDC, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines at no cost for children 19 years of age or younger who meet the following criteria:
• Medicaid eligible
• Do not have health insurance
• Are American Indian or Alaskan Native; or
• Are underinsured
Butler County in southeast Missouri leads in the number of Hepatitis A cases with 108, followed by Franklin County in southeast Missouri with 69 and Howell County in southern Missouri with 45. While no county in the Lakes Region has a reported case, three neighboring have. Christian County to the north has one while Douglas and Ozark Counties to the east have two and four respectively. View the rest of the counties on the list by clicking here.
Of the cases, 233 people have been treated at a hospital and two people have died from the disease.
The state says the disease appears to be spreading through direct person-to-person contact, mostly among people who use illicit injection or non-injection drugs and their close contacts. Local public health agencies are working to vaccinate at-risk populations, including those who use recreational drugs, are homeless, men having sex with men, are in treatment or counseling for mishandling substances, work in a jail or detention center or have been jailed and have close contact with these groups.