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Health & Science

Summit County Health Department Fights Outbreak of Hepatitis A

a map of Hepatitis A cases
This map shows the areas in Akron that have seen the greatest number of Hepatitis A cases. They include University of Akron, Middlebury, South and Kenmore neighborhoods in Akron, as well as Lakemore/Springfield Township and Barberton.

In a typical year there are fewer than a dozen Hepatitis A cases in Summit County. So far this year there have been 143. The outbreak has been linked to high-risk populations, including the homeless and street drug users. The liver virus is transmitted by fecal matter or close person-to-person contact. But incidents have also been reported among the general population.

Tracy Rodriguez is the communicable diseases supervisor for Summit County Public Health.

She says the virus that causes liver inflammation can also be contracted from infected workers at restaurants.

"If you have an immune system that’s compromised, you have a lot of other health issues and you do like to go out to eat a lot we would recommend getting the Hepatitis A vaccine," Rodriguez said. 

The County Health Department has vaccinated about 600 people through more than two dozen clinics it’s held over the past few months at homeless shelters, treatment centers and the county jail.

Rodriguez says the vaccination takes about two weeks for immunity and is 90% effective.

Summit County Health Department Fights Outbreak of Hepatitis A
Frequent travelers are at greater risk of exposure.

"If you’re someone that travels and you’re worried about it, talk to your PCP (primary care physician) and go ahead and get a vaccine. Those that have been in contact to a direct case, an acute case, then they can come at the Health Department and receive the vaccine for free."

Symptoms of Hepatitis A include nausea, fever, fatigue and jaundice. It takes an average of 28 days for symptoms to appear after a person has been exposed.   

Summit County public health officials are encouraged that cases in August appear to be leveling off.