The victim of the first Hepatitis A death in Ohio this year was a Montgomery County resident, according to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.
Vaccinations are being urged to prevent the spread of the viral liver disease amid an outbreak heavily concentrated in Montgomery and Butler counties. Local officials have even traveled into the community to vaccinate those who are at higher risk, such as those in jail or homeless shelters.
With 113 and 110 cases reported respectively as of Oct. 15, Montgomery and Butler are the only counties with more than 100 cases so far this year, but the outbreak is statewide.
There have been 666 cases recorded in 53 of Ohio’s counties this year, as of Oct. 15. For comparison, the median number of annual cases from 2012 to 2016 is 38, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Those affected have ranged in age from 12 to 81. About 6 in 10 of the people with recorded cases this year have been hospitalized.
“The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated,” stated Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director at Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County. “Proper and frequent hand washing is also a key factor in controlling the spread of disease.”
Dohn said Public Health is not releasing details about the person who died.
While Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, it is a rare occurrence that happens more commonly in people over 50 years old and those with liver diseases.
Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, light-colored stool and jaundice. Most of those affected feel sick for several months, recover and do not have lasting liver damage.
The number of Hepatitis A cases started to rise in the spring, and a statewide outbreak was declared this summer. Neighboring states such as Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan have all been affected by a Hepatitis A outbreak.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of someone who is infected, Public Health officials said.
The virus can also spread from close personal contact with someone who is infected, such as through sex.
Along with vaccination, good hygiene is important for prevention amid the Hep A outbreak because anything one touches could have microscopic fecal matter on it that has the virus in it, said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health.
“Overall, the more people who have Hepatitis A, the more chances when you touch something that you could contract it,” Suffoletto said.
People who work in restaurants are urged to receive a Hepatitis A vaccination to prevent the spread of the virus.
Those who have experienced symptoms should contact their health care provider. Anyone concerned about Hepatitis A is encouraged to reach out to their health care provider, pharmacy or Public Health.
In response to the outbreak, Public Health officials have been giving vaccines at 75 sessions around the community, including at the jail and homeless shelters since people who are homeless or incarcerated are at a higher risk of getting the virus. They have so far administered 1,752 vaccinations at these off-site sessions and have also administered 394 vaccines at the clinic.