Sedgwick County health officials report surge in hepatitis A cases

The Sedgwick County Health Department and Ascension Via Christi, along with other local health care providers, have identified over 100 residents who have been diagnosed with hepatitis A since the spring.

There were only four cases reported in Sedgwick County in all of 2019.  This year’s cases involve people who were diagnosed at local emergency departments between May and October.

Ascension Via Christi medical director Maggie Hagan said the hospital is working with county health officials to identify cases and determine the source of the outbreak.   They are working to identify contacts of people who have been diagnosed with the disease.    The hepatitis A virus is found in the blood and stool of people who are infected, and it is usually spread through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink.   More than half of the people recently diagnosed in Sedgwick County reported a history of IV drug use.

Common symptoms of the virus include jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes), stomach pain, dark urine, nausea, vomiting and fever.  Symptoms usually last less than two months.  While most people get better on their own, some may need hospitalization.   Death can occur in rare cases.   There is no specific treatment for the virus.

Anyone with symptoms is urged to contact their medical provider or a local clinic, and close contacts should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease.  The best way to prevent the disease is to be vaccinated with the full, two-dose series.   People can prevent infection by washing their hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and before preparing and eating food.