COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said Monday they are investigating a statewide outbreak of  hepatitis A cases in South Carolina.

DHEC says 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 people who contract hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Symptoms usually begin within two to 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.” 

DHEC said there have been 86 reported cases if the disease between November 1, 2018 and May 10, 2019, 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.  

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

DHEC said 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 

DHEC said these 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 on hepatitis A, visit the DHEC website 

Copyright 2019 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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