UPDATE: The number of Hepatitis A cases in the Hamilton County area has once again risen.  As of August 3rd, there are 12 confirmed cases, a number officials haven't seen in a while.

"We're currently experiencing an outbreak and we're doing what we can along with community partners to try to prevent the spread of this infection," Dr. Boaz said.

On average, there are zero to one per year. The latest case was reported at two Hamilton County correctional facilities. A woman was held at the jail, then transferred to Silverdale. In the process, she might have exposed others to the virus.

"Because of the close proximity, sharing bathrooms and the conditions in the holding areas, we're taking this measure just to make sure and protect those women," she explained.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is working to make contact with women who were held at the Hamilton County Jail the afternoon of Thursday, July 26, 2018, through the morning of Friday, July 27, and/or any women who were held at the Silverdale Detention Center on Friday, July 27, 2018.

The person was only in the temporary female holding areas and not mixed in with the general jail populations at either facility.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said employees have been contacted as well.

"More than 30 employees that have to be contacted and given an opportunity to be tested to see that it did not spread," Sheriff Hammond said.

This incident might be isolated, but health officials and local businesses aren't taking any chances.

"Not only do we have that responsibility but of giving great food and great service we also have the safety aspect of it," Foster Yates said.

This week, Yates, the GM of Pucketts, put up new signs at every hand washing station.        

"The biggest thing we can do is washing our hands, and sanitation practices are very important to us and keeping people educated," he said.

It's a priority for his staff and constantly goes over proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

"Anytime you put your hand in your apron or touching money or taking plates from a table, we always want to step to the sink and wash our hands," he said.

For anyone at the temporary holding areas of either of these facilities during these dates and times, the Health Department is offering free Hepatitis A vaccine.

In order for the vaccine to be most effective for these individuals, it should be given soon and no later than August 10, 2018.

A special clinic will be available Monday August 8th and the rest of the week from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at the Adult/International Travel Clinic of the 3rd Street Health Department main campus.

Clients do not need to bring proof of the incarceration or other documents. Individuals may also visit any of our four other health centers around the county on a walk-in basis between 8AM-4PM and get the vaccine free:

  • Birchwood Health Center, 5625 Hwy 60, Birchwood TN 37308, 423-961-0446
  • Homeless Health Care Center, 730 E 11th St, Chattanooga TN 37403, 423-265-5708
  • Ooltewah Health Center, 5520 High St, Ooltewah TN 37363, 423-238-4269
  • Sequoyah Health Center, 9527 W Ridge Trail Rd, Soddy Daisy TN 37379, 423-842-3031

Most adults have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A. The vaccine has only been routine for children entering kindergarten in the past few years.

In the current multi-state hepatitis A outbreak, the disease is occurring mainly among people who are homeless, those who use injection and non-injection drugs, men who have sex with men, and their direct contacts. Caring for someone who is ill with the disease or living in close quarters with them are also risk factors. Anyone with these risk factors may come to the Health Department and get the vaccine free.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark colored urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person.

Hepatitis A can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination. Other preventive measures include thorough hand washing before preparing or eating food and after changing diapers or going to the bathroom.

PREVIOUS STORY: New numbers show higher than normal cases of Hepatitis A in Hamilton County.

Officials with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department are now calling it an outbreak.

The Health Department has seen 12 cases of the virus in the area since early May.  They usually see zero to one case per year. 

The virus can spread when people don't wash their hands after using the bathroom or from contaminated food or water.