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Do the right things to stop spread of hepatitis A

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

Hepatits A is a growing threat around Kentucky, including now in Boyle County. In the last month, there have been two confirmed cases in Boyle of people diagnosed with the dangerous liver infection.

Hepatitis A can be a serious problem. But we’re not going to get hyperbolic and start comparing hepatitis A to more deadly health threats like AIDS or cancer. For many people, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, intense itching and jaundice. Symptoms can last for weeks. Some people don’t experience symptoms at all. But hepatitis A does have the potential to kill, and it has — four people in Kentucky had been killed this year as of the end of April.

Fortunately, there is a hepatitis A vaccine and spread of the infection is preventable. You can get the vaccine from your doctor or from the Boyle County Health Department. You should ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.

The vaccine is especially important for people who are more vulnerable to hepatitis A, and so more at risk for serious complications or death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those vulnerable populations include children; men who have sex with men; drug users; and people with clotting disorders such as hemophilia.

To help contain hepatitis A, you should also wash your hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, for example. Hepatitis A spreads most commonly via fecal matter.

Good hygiene is one reason hepatitis A isn’t nearly as common in the U.S. as it is in some other areas of the world. Our sanitary systems and health codes have helped make it far less prevalent than in places like central America.

Unfortunately, we’re still likely to see more cases of hepatitis A in the coming months. It’s a problem being driven in no small part by the drug-use epidemic plaguing the U.S. But together, we can at least take the correct steps to limit the problem in our own community.