The Arkansas Department of Health is warning of a possible hep (hepatitis) A exposure after an employee of Arkansas State University food service and volunteer at Jonesboro Salvation Army tested positive for the virus.
“Northeast Arkansas continues to have an ongoing hepatitis A (hep A) outbreak. Hep A is a contagious liver disease that can be prevented by a vaccination,” according to a news release.
“Anyone who ate at the ASU Reng Student Center Cafeteria or the Salvation Army at 800 Cate Avenue in Jonesboro from Oct. 13 to Oct. 24 should seek vaccination immediately if they have never been vaccinated against hep A or are unsure of their vaccination status,” according to the release. “There are no specific treatments once a person gets hep A. Illness can be prevented even after exposure by getting the vaccine or medicine called immune globulin. This medicine contains antibodies to hep A and works best if given within two weeks of exposure to the virus.”
Vaccine will be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the Craighead County Local Health Unit at Jonesboro. Vaccine will also be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the ASU Reng Student Center at Jonesboro.
The vaccine will be provided to the public free. People should bring their insurance card and driver’s license if they have one. Students who will are unable to attend these clinics may be able to visit a local health unit in another county by calling ahead to ensure vaccine is available. Local health units can be found at https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/health-units.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek care immediately. Typical symptoms of hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
Since February, 178 cases of hep A have been reported as part of an outbreak in Northeast Arkansas, including one death. Greene County has had the most cases, although there have been cases in Arkansas, Clay, Cleburne, Craighead, Independence, Lawrence, Lee, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, and Randolph counties.
High priority groups for getting the hep A vaccine include:
Anyone who has had close contact with someone who has hep A, food workers, people who use drugs, whether injected or not; people experiencing homelessness, transient, or unstable housing; and people who have been recently incarcerated.
Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hep A virus, which is a different virus from the viruses that cause hep B or hep C. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person.