UPDATE (08/23/2019 at 6:15 P.M.) — This story has been updated with a quote from McLean County Health Department administrator Tammy Brooks and the six cases the county has seen in the last month.
(HOI) – McLean County is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A, with 12 cases according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Six of those cases have occured in just the last month.
The IDPH declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A back in December; the statewide number currently stands at 153. This number is not associated with international travel and cases are not foodborne related.
According to the CDC, data through August 14 shows 98 Illinois cases have resulted in hospitalizations; there has been one death.
A vaccine is available at the McLean, Peoria and Tazewell county health departments. A full list of participating county health departments is available here.
A highly contagious viral disease affecting the liver, hepatitis A is spread through various means such as sexual contact with an infected person, consuming food or drinks handled by an infected person and sharing drugs, needles or cigarettes handled by an infected person.
Some of these means of transmission is a concern for health officials during back-to-school season.
“It would be a concern because a lot of those students do live in close proximity,” said Tammy Brooks, McLean County Health Department administrator. “And that is the main risk factor is being in close proximity of someone who has been exposed and doesn’t know they have hepatitis A.”
Vaccinations and thorough hand washing are some of the ways to prevent infection, according to the IDPH.
One reason for the increase of outbreak cases is an updated case definition from the CDC. High risk populations for the disease include drug users, people experiencing unstable housing or homelessness, men who have sex with men, people who are currently or were recently incarcerated and people with a chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis, hepatitis b, or hepatitis C.
People are advised to contact their doctor if they experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, dark urine, joint pain, or jaundice.