Weekly Feature

2018-02-14 / Editorials

Hepatitis A case prompts vaccination reminder

The confirmation of a hepatitis A case in Erie County last week should be a reminder of the necessity of vaccinations and their ability to prevent life-threatening virus contractions.

The individual who was confirmed to have contracted the virus worked at Al-E-Oops Restaurant, 5389 Genesee St. in Lancaster, and Brookdale Williamsville Senior Living Community, 6076 Main St. in Amherst.

Customers who consumed food prepared at Al-E-Oops from Jan. 20 to 23 and Jan. 27 to 30 may have been exposed to hepatitis A, according to the Erie County Health Department.

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus. HAV is spread from person to person through contact with the feces of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly. People can also get hepatitis A from food, water or objects contaminated with HAV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of hepatitis A can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, severe stomach pains and/or jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements).

These symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure and usually last less than two months, although some people can be ill for as long as six months. If you have hepatitis A, you may be too ill to work.

Children often do not have symptoms, but most adults do. You can spread HAV without having symptoms.

Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is rare and occurs more commonly in persons 50 years of age or older and persons with other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C. The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent the virus from spreading. Hepatitis A vaccines were recommended in the United States beginning in 1996, according to the CDC. Since then, the number of cases reported each year in the U.S. has dropped from around 31,000 cases to fewer than 1,500 cases.

Children are routinely vaccinated between their first and second birthdays (12 through 23 months of age). Older children and adolescents can get the vaccine after 23 months. Adults who have not been vaccinated previously and want to be protected against hepatitis A can also get the vaccine.

The CDC recommends that the vaccine should be sought when traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common, or if there will be close contact with an international adoptee from a country where hepatitis A is common.

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