Medialink Update for Kentucky Hepatitis Outbreak

The following is a statement from Acting Commissioner of the Department for Public Health Dr. Jeffrey Howard on Kentucky’s Hepatitis A Situation:

“As you probably know, a small number of counties in our state are dealing with a hepatitis A outbreak. At the Department for Public Health we are aggressively responding to the situation. In fact, while working with the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, on this issue, they’ve called our response the “gold standard.”

The CDC, the country’s foremost expert body in outbreak response, has NOT levied ANY travel restrictions nor made ANY recommendations for people to get vaccinated prior to traveling to a state with an active hepatitis outbreak.

Still, some misleading information has raised concerns about travel to Kentucky and even the Derby. Let me say that it IS safe to travel to Kentucky and it IS safe to attend the Kentucky Derby.

The risk of contracting hepatitis A is greatest in those with risk factors for the disease, which in our outbreak include homelessness and drug abuse.

We have not had any cases associated with contamination from a food worker and the risk of contracting the disease from an infected food worker is very low.

While there are NO travel restrictions, the CDC does recommend vaccination for children, folks with risk factors, and those living in an outbreak area who wish to be protected. Kentucky’s vaccine recommendations are in complete compliance with these CDC recommendations.

We will continue to work diligently with federal, regional and local partners to ensure the greatest protection of Kentuckians and visitors to our great Commonwealth.”

Additional Information about Hepatitis A in Kentucky

Hepatitis A virus is primarily spread through fecal-oral transmission.  The virus can also be spread by sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A.  Risk factors for cases reported in the current Kentucky outbreak primarily are homelessness and injection drug use. As long as unvaccinated people continue to come in contact with contaminated environments or have at-risk activities, the virus will continue to spread.  We have to increase vaccination rates and adherence to good hand hygiene practices to reduce the spread.  The CDC has advised that similar outbreaks usually peak after about 6-8 months. We are not expecting to experience a shorter duration.

Counts through April 14

Outbreak-Associated Cases: 352

Hospitalizations: 246

Deaths: 3

DPH is recommending vaccination for children and adult residents of Jefferson, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter and Boyd counties. The vaccine is not recommended for infants under the age of 1.

Resources for Media

We will post a video featuring Dr. Howard’s statement on our CHFS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kychfs/ this weekend.

Additional sound (unedited remarks) are available at our CHFS Medialink site on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC99OwJNHHYu9ve13279wlIg. We created the CHFS News Medialink channel so you can view our raw story elements.

Feel free to use any of this footage &/or information in your broadcast, print &/or online stories. We do not require a courtesy or photo credit.

We’ve created the CHFS News Medialink channel on YouTube where you can view our raw story elements:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC99OwJNHHYu9ve13279wlIg.

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