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State Delivering Hepatitis A Vaccine Doses To Most Affected Counties

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CDC/Betty Partin
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The Kentucky Department of Public Health is handing out 10,000 hepatitis A vaccinations to the 10 counties hardest hit by the multi-state outbreak.

In a normal year, Kentucky reports only about 20 cases of the rare liver disease, but as of Monday, that number stands at 629.

To combat the spread of the contagious liver illness, the state public health department plans to deliver an additional 1,000 doses of the vaccine for uninsured and low-income residents in each of the ten counties witnessing the sharpest increases. In a Facebook Live video, acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard says the San Diego, California-traced outbreak first hit the Louisville area and has since fanned out.

"There's still currently research going on at the Centers for Disease Control as to why the disease is spreading to a greater degree now," he said.

For residents seeing news of food workers testing positive and fearing food contamination, Howard says so far that hasn’t been the culprit in Kentucky.

"We've had zero cases related to a food worker. Right now, the virus in this outbreak is spreading via contaminated environments," Howard reported. "So if you live or are around folks who are at risk for this disease, you ought to be vaccinated."

People infected the viral liver disease are most contagious during the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, making the illness difficult to plan for and contain. But once symptoms appear, patients often initially report weakness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), and abdominal pain. No specific treatments exist for hepatitis A, but nearly all patients fully recover.

Howard advises the usual preventative measures, including frequent handwashing with soap and water – not hand sanitizer – for 20 seconds and avoiding hand to mouth touching.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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