Lexington's top health officials are recommending that all Fayette County residents be vaccinated for hepatitis A. The advice comes as the city's confirmed cases climb to 12 – with four showing up in the last two weeks.
The outbreak has claimed the lives of 13 people across the state and infected more than 1,600 in 86 counties. Typically those suffering from poor hygiene are at greater risk for contracting the illness, but Fayette County Health Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh says this outbreak is a little different.
"About 20 percent of the cases have no identifiable risk factors, such as illicit drug use or homelessness, so there is a concern on our part about a potential for wider spread in the city outside of these traditional risk groups," he tells WUKY.
As for prevention, the health department says the evidence is clear: vaccination is the best choice. The process involves two doses separated by six months. In addition to healthcare providers, pharmacies also offer the vaccine, which Humbaugh says is covered by most insurers.
Outside of vaccination, health officials say good handwashing – especially after visiting the restroom and before preparing meals – is the next best defense against hepatitis A.
"This particular outbreak is being spread more person-to-person than traditional outbreaks are," Humbaugh says.
The vaccination is now required for all children attending public school or child care in Kentucky.