A recent rise in the number of Hepatitis A cases in both Kentucky and Michigan have resulted in Indiana Health Department (IHD) officials strongly urging Hoosiers to get vaccinated for the disease before travelling to either state.

Since the start of the year, Kentucky has seen "more than 300 reported cases of Hepatitis A," according to the Associated Press, most of which have been concentrated around the Louisville area, while Michigan has seen "more than 800, including 25 deaths."

The call for vaccinations comes after Indiana officials noticed a rise in the number of reported cases in and around the Clark and Floyd Counties areas (across the river from Louisville). The state averages around 20 cases per year. There have been 77 since January.

According to the IHD:

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It is generally transmitted via fecal-oral routes or through consumption of contaminated food or water. Individuals can contract the virus through contact with:

Foods prepared or served by an infected person(s)

Stool or blood of an infected person(s)

Inanimate objects that may have trace amounts of fecal material from hand contact

Shared syringes or "works" used to inject drugs

 

Symptoms vary greatly, from severe to none at all, and may include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, fever, stomach ache, dark (cola) colored urine and light colored stools. Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin) may appear a few days after the onset of these symptoms. Individuals can become ill 15 to 50 days after being exposed to the virus. Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. However, hospitalization and, in rare cases, death can occur.

Does this mean you need a vaccination if you live in Evansville and plan on running down to Henderson or heading to Owensboro for a short amount of time? Probably not. However, if you plan on heading to the Louisville area for a weekend, like for the upcoming Kentucky Derby, or some other extended period of time, it's probably not a bad idea.

The Department strongly encourages anyone who believes they may have contracted the virus contact their healthcare provider immediately. That would also be a good place to start in regards to getting vaccinated.