MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department is now confirming a hepatitis A outbreak in Shelby County.
The Shelby County Health Department says this is part of a nationwide outbreak. The CDC first started monitoring it in early 2017. Despite the health department’s efforts Shelby County is now seeing its first cases.
Cases in Shelby County popped up in the last two weeks. So far, the health department knows of 10 reported cases of hepatitis A linked to the outbreak. But the number of cases in middle and East Tennessee are much higher.
Health officials are tracking this outbreak coast to coast. Since the first reported case in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 15,000 cases of Hepatitis A and 140 deaths.
Dr. Alisa Haushalter, the director of the Shelby County Health Department says this strain of the virus seen infecting Americans is causing more problems with its severe symptoms of upset stomach, muscle aches, and jaundice.
“Individuals have more likelihood of being hospitalized and a high likelihood of death,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, the director of the Shelby County Health Department. “It spreads very, very quickly So we are trying to get a handle by doing really through contact investigations for the small number of cases we are currently experiencing".
Those most at risk: recreational drug users, the homeless population and men who have sexual contact with other men.
Ahead of the outbreak reaching Shelby County the health department for the last year has worked to vaccinate these high risk groups.
“Now that we have cases we have to ramp up our vaccinations and try to get more people vaccinated,”said Dr. Haushalter.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is free at the health department to anyone who falls in those three high risk categories.
Hand washing is key to staying healthy from the virus.