Hepatitis A outbreak continues, Mo. health officials urge food workers to get vaccinated

New Hepatitis A cases means more vaccines

STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - With more than 400 cases of Hepatitis A in the last two years and counting, Missouri health officials are urging people at risk of getting the virus to get vaccinated.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 108 people in Butler County have tested positive for Hepatitis A and it’s continuing to pop up in other parts of Southeast Missouri.

Some of the newest cases are coming out of the food industry and it’s an easy environment for the highly contagious liver disease to spread.

“Just having one case makes you want to be very proactive at it. To get out into your community and get those food establishments and those high risk areas and get them vaccinated,” said Julie Flieg a public health nurse in Sainte Genevieve County.

Flieg says only three people in the county have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A so far, but one of the cases this summer came from a restaurant worker in Franklin County where 71 people have gotten sick.

“People that travel to other counties you know you need to protect yourself,” Flieg said.

The most at-risk populations are people who live or travel to areas where an Hepatitis A outbreak is occurring, recreational drug users, the homeless, people who have sex with someone that has Hep A, jail inmates, first responders, and anyone who comes in contact with these at risk groups.

Flieg says they also want more food industry workers to get a Hepatits A shot.

“It’s very easy for somebody to be a food care worker and not wash their hands completely after going to the bathroom," Flieg said. "It just takes that one transfer from hand to mouth and you’re infected with it, so it can easily spread and fast.”

Nurse Flieg says anyone can get a free vaccine during an outbreak and they’ve been giving out dozens to kids and adults alike.

“Just come in. It will take you two minutes to get registered and another couple minutes to get the vaccine and then you’re out of here,” Flieg said. “It’s easy, it’s free, we don’t ask any questions. Then come back for your second dose six months later just so your body gets enough antibodies built up to protect you from that virus.”

More than half of the 400 plus cases in Missouri have led to a hospital visit, and Flieg says the symptoms of Hepatitis A can easily go unnoticed.

“Just to get the word out. You don’t know usually if somebody has Hepatits A sitting by you," Flieg said. "In a restaurant or at the grocery store. Anywhere so before it gets out of control we need to be very proactive and get everyone vaccinated in this community.”

Common symptoms for Hepatitis A include feeling very tired, having a fever, yellow skin or eyes, no appetite, dark urine, naseau, stomach pain and diarrhea.

If Hep A goes untreated it can lead to liver failure and even death.

Here is the list of counties in Southeast Missouri that have cases of Hepatitis A in the last two years according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services:

  • Butler - 108
  • Cape Girardeau - 4
  • Carter - 20
  • Dunklin - 14
  • Madison - 1
  • Mississippi - 1
  • New Madrid - 2
  • Pemiscot - 4
  • Reynolds - 5
  • Ripley - 10
  • Scott - 35
  • Ste. Genevieve - 3
  • Stoddard - 37
  • Wayne - 6
List of southeast Mo. counties with Hep A cases in the last 2 years (Source: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services)
List of southeast Mo. counties with Hep A cases in the last 2 years (Source: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services)

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