Is Georgia seeing an outbreak of Hepatitis A?

Monday, April 22, 2019
News 12 First at Five

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia is seeing more cases of Hepatitis A than normal. More than 30 cases have been reported in the last two weeks and the CDC is calling it an outbreak.

We spoke with an AUMC doctor who says they are seeing the most cases in northwest Georgia and Augusta.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection, but it is preventable.

Dr. Jose Vazquez, chief infectious disease doctor at AUMC, says he's not too concerned about catching Hepatitis A.

"I have the hepatitis vaccine, so no I don't and everybody around me has the hepatitis vaccine so I don't really think about, you don't really think about it,” said Vazquez.

But he says if he knew it was in a particular place, he may avoid that area.

"Unless you know one area of town or restaurant has had an outbreak, then obviously I would avoid that area,” said Vazquez.

He says Hepatitis A is spread in feces. For example, you could get it if someone goes to the bathroom, doesn't wash their hands, touches your food and then you eat it.

Just two months ago, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control told us about two cases at two restaurants in Aiken.

Dr. Vazquez says it is a part of the outbreak that Georgia is also seeing.

“As a matter of fact we've probably had an increase of about 200 percent, 2 to 300 percent in the past couple of months in the incidents of Hepatitis A in the state of Georgia," said Vazquez.

In a normal year, Dr. Vazquez says Georgia sees 60 to 70 cases of Hepatitis A. This year, they've already seen 190 cases in the past three months.

“The increase in drug use in the area is number one, we're seeing a lot of other things with opioid use so I think that's one of the reasons we've seen this and I think the fact that the vaccine rates appear to not be too great," said Vazquez.

But he says with the vaccine, Hepatitis A is preventable.

"Everybody should be getting the Hepatitis A vaccine," said Vazquez.

Dr. Vazquez says people can be contagious one to two weeks before they know they have Hepatitis A. Symptoms are yellowing of the skin, fever, nausea and he says there isn't a treatment, you just have to ride it out. Fluids and healthy eating are important though.

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