A surge in hepatitis A cases in South Carolina led public health officials to declare a statewide viral infection outbreak on Monday.
The Department of Health and Environmental Controls (DHEC) said the cases of hepatitis A has increased in South Carolina last fall. In February, hepatitis A outbreak was declared in Aiken County.
The statewide outbreak that was declared Monday coincides with a national hepatitis A outbreak, which began in 2016.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. The signs and symptoms include fever, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, jaundice, yellowed skin, and dark urine.
Most people affected by hepatitis A feel sick for a few weeks, and then eventually recover with no permanent damage to the liver. The infection is contagious and spreads from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. People may also get the infection through close contact with a person having hepatitis A.
DHEC advises all children between 12 months and 18 years of age to get two shots of the hepatitis A vaccine. Adults may get vaccinated at any time if they were not vaccinated as children.
DHEC public health officials said that vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A. Also, they recommended washing your hands thoroughly after using the restroom and before preparing or eating meals.
If you suspect you have symptoms similar to hepatitis A, see a doctor. A simple blood test will confirm the diagnosis of hepatitis A.
There is no specific medication to treat the infection; however, doctors advise symptomatic treatment. People with a serious illness may need hospitalization for care as they recover.
In South Carolina, people above 18 years of age can get the hepatitis A vaccine at some local pharmacies, depending on their insurance coverage.
DHEC health officials said that the local health department also provides the hepatitis A vaccine. It has an adult vaccine program, which provides low-cost vaccines for uninsured or underinsured people who are 19 years and above. The health department is currently providing no-cost hepatitis A vaccines to people who belong to the high-risk group.