Hepatitis A outbreak continues to rise in Hamilton County
A nationwide Hepatitis A outbreak is growing, and more cases are being reported in Hamilton County.
Chattanooga-Hamilton County is seeing a record amount of cases, topping out near the top metro areas in the state behind Mid-Cumberland and Nashville-Davidson regions.
Health officials are warning the community about the outbreak and how to prevent getting infected. They say if you haven't received the vaccine, now is the time to do so.
Early symptoms are sometimes vague. One might even think they have the flu, but the consequences can be serious.
"Headaches, they can get stomach aches. They can feel very, very ill, and sometimes, not always, their skin will turn yellow, the whites of their eyes will look kind of yellow," Connie Buecker, with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, said.
Symptoms Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department officials are seeing more of. On average, there is 0 to 1 case per year. However, since last May, they've seen 88, a number that continues to climb.
"It's just a tremendous increase, and we're spending a lot of time and effort trying to get out to people to get vaccine, in here to get vaccine," Beucker said.
One hundred eighty cases of Hepatitis A has been reported in Nashville, and nearly 10,000 people have received the vaccine since the outbreak was announced in late May of 2018.
In Hamilton County, more than 3,200 doses have been given out since the outbreak started.
While other counties are leveling out, local health officials here said our area is rising.
Buecker said genotyping is being done to see if cases are linked, but so far, they haven't seen a pattern.
"We have been able to see a little bit of linkage in some linking to the nationwide outbreak, but others that don't," she explained.
Washing your hands after using the bathroom and safe food handling practices can prevent the disease. However, your best defense is the vaccine.
"Having a little bit of a needle stick in your arm is nothing compared to the illness that you'll see," Beucker added.
The health department is reaching out to at-risk populations, but they are concerned that what they're seeing is only a small fraction of what's really out there.
You can get the vaccine for free by walking into any of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department's clinics.