Skagit County Public Health has confirmed one case of hepatitis A in a County resident. It is not known whether this case is related to the statewide hepatitis A outbreak declared in July of this year.
Because the patient has not travelled outside Skagit County during the period in which they were exposed to the virus, this infection was likely acquired locally.
The exact source of the infection is still unknown, which indicates that there may be other unrecognized cases of hepatitis A in the community.
Since summer 2019, Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) has been working to spread the word about steps to prevent hepatitis A, including the need to vaccinate people at risk. Since August, SCPH has been conducting mobile immunization clinics, providing vaccines to adults with limited healthcare access that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and flu. Educational materials have been distributed to service providers to raise awareness among high-risk populations. Public Health has also sent notifications to healthcare providers containing information about the disease and what to look for in their patients.
With this new case of hepatitis A, SCPH will continue to work closely with healthcare and service providers to promptly identify any possible additional cases. Public Health is also continuing immunization efforts among high-risk individuals. (See list below for what is considered high-risk.)
Hepatitis A is a very contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can be a mild or severe illness lasting from a few weeks to several months. It is usually spread person-to-person when someone unknowingly consumes stool (poop) of someone with hepatitis A. This can be from touching objects or consuming food or water contaminated with the virus. It can also be spread from close, personal contact with an infected person; this includes caring for an infected person or using drugs with others.
Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. If symptoms develop, they usually appear two to seven weeks after infection and can include yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), dark urine and/or pale stools, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, joint pain, and abdominal pain. Anyone with symptoms consistent with hepatitis A should seek medical attention promptly.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated with two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is safe and nearly 100 percent effective with two doses, given six months apart. Anyone who wants to reduce their risk of hepatitis A should get vaccinated. Vaccination is recommended for all children starting at 1 year of age, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus (see list below). Look up your family’s immunization status at https://wa.myir.net/. Individuals can get vaccines from their healthcare provider or a vaccinating pharmacy. Use the Vaccine Finder to locate hepatitis A vaccination services near you.
People who are at highest risk for getting hepatitis A are:
- People who are living with or caring for a person who already has hepatitis A
- People who have sex with people with hepatitis A
- People living homeless, especially those living unsheltered without good access to sanitation, hygiene and handwashing facilities
- Men who have sex with men
- Illicit drug users (does not have to be injection drugs)
- People with clotting disorders like hemophilia
- International travelers
- People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C are at increased risk for severe infections.
Other ways to prevent hepatitis A is to practice good hand hygiene – including thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. People in high-risk groups should also avoid sharing food, drinks, drug paraphernalia, and other personal items.