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Monday
May132019

DHEC Concerned by S.C. Hepatitis Outbreak

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating a statewide outbreak of Hepatitis A cases in South Carolina. To date, only one case has been reported in Anderson County.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by a virus that is typically transmitted through person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection or through eating or drinking food or water contaminated by an infected person. 

Most who contract Hepatitis A can be ill for several weeks, but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Symptoms usually begin within two-six weeks after exposure and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin.   

“Given the steady increase in cases, we determined that South Carolina is experiencing an outbreak,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist and director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control in a news release. “As a result, DHEC is intensifying efforts to control the spread of hepatitis A to avoid a severe outbreak that could threaten the general population.” 

There have been 86 reported cases if the disease between November 1-May 10, more than four times the 19 reported cases South Carolina has seen on average each year over the past decade. Those 86 cases led to 59 hospitalizations and one death.  

Most cases have occurred in Aiken County, and almost half of all cases involve individuals who report drug use. 

The following groups may be at higher risk for Hepatitis A include:

  • People who use injection or non-injection drugs
  • People who are homeless
  • People who are or recently were incarcerated
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with chronic liver disease like cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C
  • People who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic liver disease like cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C as they have an increased risk of complications if infected with hepatitis A 

The following steps can be taken to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A:

  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A
  • Washing their hands after using the restroom and before eating or preparing meals
  • Refraining from sex with someone who has a hepatitis A infection
  • Immediately seeking medical care if a hepatitis A infection is suspected 

For more information, visit the DHEC website 

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