Nearly three-fourths of Lexington’s hepatitis A cases were hospitalized last month, according to new data from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
Lexington had 13 new confirmed cases of hepatitis A last month, which has brought the statewide total to 35 in the statewide outbreak. Of last month’s cases, 74 percent were hospitalized, which is compared to about 53 percent in all of Kentucky.
There is no clear indication why Lexington’s hospitalization rate is higher than the rest of the state. “Most likely, it’s because we have a smaller number of cases compared to the statewide total, according to Kevin Hall, Communications Officer for the local health department.
Hall added that none of the October cases involved food service workers. Around two-thirds of the cases involve drug use and 20 percent have no risk factors noted, he said.
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In September, the Lexington health department recommenced all residents to get their hepatitis A vaccinations when the number of cases in the region began to surge.
“The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated,” Fayette Commissioner of Health Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said in September. “The vaccine is effective and has an excellent track record. However, most adults have not yet been immunized since the vaccine was not given routinely as part of their childhood schedule of shots.”
Sixteen people have died statewide in the outbreak, according to the local health department. None have died in Fayette County.
Wednesday, the Franklin County Health Department announced it had two recent hepatitis A related deaths in the county. Both individuals had underlying medical conditions that contributed to the severity of their infections, according to the Franklin County Health Department.
There have been more than 2,200 total cases since August 2017.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes. People can become ill 15 days to 50 days after being exposed to the virus, the health department said.
The disease is “usually spread when a person unknowingly eats or drinks something contaminated by small amounts of stool from an infected person,” according to the health department.