CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mecklenburg County health officials say they're starting a vaccination program after five cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed since April.
The Mecklenburg County Health Department said they will be providing updates every other week on the hepatitis A outbreak until the threat is over.
Tuesday will be the first update since the outbreak was announced to the public.
Channel 9 spoke with the Health Department who remains firm that there is not a threat to the general public, but that they are treating this with extreme care.
Last year, there were only four reported cases of Hepatitis A for the entire year.
The health director said the cases are unusual for the Charlotte area. Previous outbreaks involved the food service industry. This time around, the people most at risk are people abusing drugs, the homeless, and when there is sexual contact between men.
States with similar outbreaks include California, Utah, Kentucky, and Indiana. All five of the reported cases had to be hospitalized.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease caused by a virus spread from person to person or when food or drink is contaminated by the virus. The illness can last for weeks to months. Only acute cases are reportable in North Carolina.
Older children and adults will have symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and yellow skin and eyes. Younger children will often not have symptoms.
Mecklenburg County Public Health says hepatitis A cases have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2012. The five cases in Mecklenburg is a greater number than any annual number in the past.
The most at-risk groups for hepatitis A are:
- Those who are household members, caregivers, or have sexual contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis A
- Men who have sexual encounters with other men
- Those who use recreational drugs, whether injected or not
- Recent travel from countries where hepatitis A is common
- Homeless individuals who do not have easy access to handwashing facilities
If you think you have been exposed and you do not have the vaccine, you could still benefit from it. The vaccine can still be effective if its given within the first two weeks of exposure.
Residents with insurance can get the vaccine at their regular health provider’s office. The vaccine is available for free for residents with one of the risks (listed above) at these locations Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.:
- Northwest Health Department – 2845 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte
- Southeast Health Department, 249 Billingsley Rd., Charlotte
Call (704) 336-6500 to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins are welcome.
More information about hepatitis A is available at meckhealth.org.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.