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Health Department Notes - Hepatitis A vaccine requirements for 2018 school year

Hepatitis A vaccine is required for everyone 12 months through 18 years of age. Effective July 1, 2018, all students in kindergarten through twelfth grade must show proof of having received two doses of hepatitis A vaccine to attend school. Parents are encouraged to get the vaccine now so their children will have both doses prior to the first day of school.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated. All children, aged one year through 18 years, are recommended to get the Hepatitis A vaccine as well as adults with increased risk factors or certain medical conditions.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has declared an outbreak of acute hepatitis A with cases in multiple counties in Kentucky.

In total, 48 cases of acute (rapid onset with symptoms of illness) hepatitis A have been reported throughout Kentucky in 2017, with 33 cases occurring in Jefferson County. In Jefferson County, 31 cases have been reported since Aug. 1, 2017, meeting the case definition for the 2017 outbreak of acute hepatitis A in Kentucky.

Increased risk factors include homelessness; all forms of substance use disorder; people with direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A; travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common; men who have sexual contact with men; household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common; people with clotting factor disorders, such as hemophilia.

Other than age-appropriate vaccinations, the best way to keep from getting hepatitis A is to wash your hands using warm water and soap, to handle uncooked food appropriately and to fully cook food. Always wash your hands before touching or eating food, after using the toilet and after changing a diaper. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and fever. The virus is found in the stool of people infected with hepatitis A and is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person infected with hepatitis A. It is often transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or by eating uncooked or undercooked food.

Not everyone with the acute hepatitis A virus infection will develop symptoms, however, if symptoms do develop, they may include fever, jaundice or yellowing of the skin, vomiting, fatigue, and grey-colored stools. Persons with symptoms should seek medical care for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Additional information about hepatitis A is available from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/index.htm.

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