County: More than 50 sickened by Hep. A

The Hepatitis A virus, pictured above, has sickened more than 50 people in Oswego County since the summer, officials announced last week.

OSWEGO — Health authorities in Oswego County continue to battle a county-wide Hepatitis A virus outbreak tallied at 53 confirmed cases of the virus since June.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes Hepatitis A — a liver infection that may cause symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, dark urine, among others —and is a “highly contagious viral disease,” according to Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang.

“So far, the majority of these cases have been associated with at-risk populations; however, due to the nature of the disease, I ask all residents to be diligent about practicing good personal hygiene,” Huang said in a statement.

Populations at an increased risk to contract HAV include people struggling with homelessness, substance use disorder, men who are sexually active with other men and those in contact with a person confirmed to carry the virus, according to county public health officials.

Symptoms usually appear two to six weeks after exposure to the virus, though they noted many who carry the virus may experience no symptoms, according to the health department.

“Simple practices, like proper handwashing and not sharing utensils or drinking cups, will significantly reduce the risk of getting the virus,” Huang said. “If you or your loved ones have symptoms of the disease, please seek medical care immediately and follow your doctor’s instructions if vaccination is recommended.”

Contaminated food and water sources can also be perilous, according to Jodi Martin, supervising public health nurse at the health department.

A two-vaccine solution is the best way to prevent the infection, officials noted.

“Anyone who has been exposed to someone with Hepatitis A should get vaccinated as soon as possible. A single vaccine shot can help prevent infection if given within two weeks of exposure,” said Diane Oldenburg, senior public health educator with the Oswego County Health Department.

The department’s Preventative Services Division is currently handling the monitoring and investigation of all confirmed cases in order to identify close contacts for vaccination.

Since the initial outbreak in the summer, local health officials started conducting a countywide sweep of health facilities, substance abuse treatment centers and probation offices — like the County of Oswego Council on Alcoholism and Addictions (COCOAA) and Farnham Family Services — to educate the population on how to prevent infection by the Hepatitis A virus. Health experts from the county Health Department are also vaccinating inmates at the Oswego County Correctional Facility.

Bolstering vaccination rates are a priority at this time, according to officials who added the department is partnering with local healthcare providers who are screening for risk factors and testing patients with symptoms under regulations established by the state’s Department of Health.

Anyone experiencing signs or symptoms of Hepatitis A, or who has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with the virus, or who is an at-risk individual is encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Oswego County Health Department 315-349-3547 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those seeking more information about getting vaccinated, or signs and symptoms of HAV may visit: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm#overview.

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