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Mississippi reports hepatitis A outbreak

Meridian Star - 7/31/2019

Jul. 31--The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported Monday there is a hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi, joining surrounding states and others across the country in fighting this national epidemic.

"An outbreak occurs when we see an increased number of cases greater than what is normally expected over time," said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said in a statement. "Since April we've seen 23 cases in Mississippi. We investigate all reported cases to identify their contacts and provide vaccination."

Five of the cases were reported in Pearl River County and four were reported in Benton County. Jones, Rankin and Hinds County have reported one case each.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can be spread when a person ingests the virus through food or drink that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person or through close, personal contact (including sexual contact) with an infected person; including sexual contact and sharing or handling objects with someone who is infected, according to a news release from the health department.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting; jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes); and stomach pain, low appetite and fever, according to the news release.

"In Mississippi, our most at-risk populations are those who use those who use recreational drugs, are currently in jail or were recently in jail, men who have sex with men, and those with unstable housing or who are homeless," Byers said in a statement. "Other states are seeing similar trends."

Hepatitis A can be prevented through a vaccine. Other prevention measures include practicing strong hygiene habits such as thoroughly washing your hands after using the bathroom, according to the news release.

"We are strongly recommending that all persons who are at higher risk get hepatitis A vaccine" Byers said in a statement. "Hepatitis A vaccine can be obtained through your provider, pharmacist and at all County Health Departments for uninsured or underinsured persons."

For more information about hepatitis A and this outbreak, visit http://HealthyMS.com/hepA

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