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WHITLEY COUNTY -- The most recent health reports indicate cases of hepatitis A have slowed down across the Commonwealth and in Whitley County.

In November 2017, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) identified an outbreak of acute hepatitis A.

In January, the state reported numbers as of January 11, that include 4,996 total cases, 2,407 hospitalizations and 61 deaths.

Marcy Rein, director of the Whitley County Health Department, said in looking at the most recent report from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, which reports through January 11, new cases have slowed down considerably across the Commonwealth.

And this comes as no surprise as Rein reported the decrease in July 2019 during a free hepatitis A clinic for non-insured uninsured adults.

"Whitley County has had 202 cases reported since the outbreak was declared in August 2017," said Rein. "And 15 of those have been confirmed, 103 were probable cases and 84 were suspected cases."

These numbers make the incident rate for Whitley County 557.8 per 100,000 population, putting Whitley County second behind Lee County for the highest rate.

The risk factors associated with the hepatitis A outbreak continue to be primarily illicit drug use, said Rein. That is any illicit drug use and not specific to injecting drugs.

"We continue to provide education and vaccination in our clinics, especially within our Harm Reduction Clinic," Rein added. "I think vaccination is the main reason we have seen the infections decrease."

The most recent cases in Whitley County were one in early December and one just last week (not captured in the above mentioned report). Neither of those cases had known risk factors such as illicit drug use or homelessness, and neither were food service workers, according to Rein.

If acute hepatitis A is suspected, contact local or state public health within 24 hours. Vaccination of at-risk individuals remains the best means of control.

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