MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Departments said more than two dozen cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Shelby County since early last year.
A Hepatitis A outbreak has hit several states. In Tennessee, more than 1,800 people have gotten sick and at least 10 people have died.
The Shelby County Health Department said there have not been any deaths in Shelby County, but at least 27 people have gotten sick.
The health department said those most at risk include people who are incarcerated, the homeless and recreational drug users. However, they say any unvaccinated person who is exposed to hepatitis A may develop it.
Since the health department first reported the multi-state hepatitis A outbreak, reaching Shelby County in April, the number of confirmed cases has nearly tripled.
The state health department reports 10 Tennesseans have died from the illness.
Since the first reported case in 2016 the CDC reports more than 22,000 Americans have contracted this strain of the Hepatitis A virus and 216 deaths.
The Shelby County Health Department says the current strain of the virus causes severe upset stomach, muscle aches, and jaundice. It also comes with a higher likelihood of hospitalization and potentially death.
“We are seeing more than usual cases of Hepatitis A. There has been an upsurge throughout the country since the end of 2017. So we have seen much more cases now than before and we have seen them in Tennessee too," said Dr. Muhammad Khurshid, an Infectious disease doctor at St. Francis Hospital.
Shelby County first reported 10 cases in April over a two-week period. Now, that number is up to 29 according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The number of cases in middle and East Tennessee is much higher.
“Patients could actually be infectious two weeks before their symptoms so it’s hard to prevent except for generalized preventative measures like washing your hands,” said Khurshid.
For the past year, the Shelby County health department has worked to vaccinate high risk group. The vaccine is considered highly effective at preventing the infection.
Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, weight loss and yellowing of the skin and eyes.
The health department urges anyone who thinks they might've been exposed to get tested and treated to prevent more serious complications.
They say there's also a preventative vaccine available to help family and close friends of someone who's been exposed.
“The Shelby County Health Department strongly encourages anyone who experiences the symptoms of hepatitis A to seek medical care and testing,” said Health Director Alisa Haushalter. “Prompt treatment may prevent more serious complications, and knowing you have hepatitis A allows your family and close contacts to receive preventative vaccination. If given within 14 days of exposure, the hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective in preventing the illness.”
The health department said they offer free hepatitis A vaccinations to people who think they may be at-risk for exposure.
Hepatitis A vaccinations are provided without appointment, Monday-Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., at the following locations:
Cawthon Public Health Clinic
1000 Haynes, 38114
Collierville Public Health Clinic (Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
167 Washington St., 38017
Hickory Hill Public Health Clinic
6590 Kirby Center Cove, 38118
814 Jefferson, Rm. 216, 38105
Millington Public Health Clinic
8225 Highway 51 North, 38053
814 Jefferson, Room 221, 38105
Shelby Crossing Public Health Clinic
6170 Macon Road, 38133
Southland Mall Public Health Clinic
1287 Southland Mall, 38116
Hepatitis A vaccinations may also be obtained at primary care providers.
For more information about hepatitis A, visit http://www.shelbytnhealth.com/.