Hepatitis A Immunizations Increase in Holmes County
By: Raquel Miller, Public Health Nurse June 1, 2022
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect your liver's ability to function. Symptoms can include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, joint pain, dark urine, jaundice, and intense itching. These symptoms may be relatively mild and go away in a few weeks. However, at times a hepatitis A infection results in severe illness that lasts several months.
The virus most commonly spreads when you eat or drink something contaminated with fecal matter, even in just tiny amounts. This can happen during harvesting and processing of food or during food preparation. Hepatitis A can also be spread by drinking contaminated water or eating shellfish from a water source polluted with sewage. Another method of transmission is close contact with an infected individual. Even if the infected individual doesn’t currently have symptoms, that individual is still contagious.
An outbreak has been active in Ohio and throughout most of the United States since 2018. Fortunately, Hepatitis A is preventable with a vaccine that is recommended to start at 1 year of age.
Holmes County General Health District’s immunization staff, Sue and Raquel, began to routinely recommend and encourage parents of eligible children to vaccinate for Hepatitis A due to the current outbreak, the low Hepatitis A immunization rates in Holmes County, and the mission travel of many citizens of Holmes County to other countries with high rates of Hepatitis A. Immunization staff educates all families about Hepatitis A, how it is spread, risks of the disease, and possible ways to become ill with the disease. Educational information is given from different sources and immunization staff follow up on subsequent visits to answer questions and once again recommend the vaccine. In July 2018, only 1.7% of the HCGHD patients aged 24-35 months had received the recommended 2 doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine. By December 2020, 11.4% of that same age group were fully vaccinated against Hepatitis A. The most success was seen in the adolescents. In July 2018 only 7.9% of HCGHD patients between the ages of 13-17 were fully vaccinated. By December 2020, 28.3% of HCGHD patients 13-year-olds were fully vaccinated. (Statistics obtained from CDC IQIP process conducted under the GVO grant.)
Sue and Raquel work hard to educate parents about all recommended childhood vaccines at our outreach clinics. As the Holmes County General Health District immunization staff, they answer questions families may have, dispel myths, and provide education to help parents make the best decision they can to protect their children and the rest of Holmes County citizens from vaccine preventable illness. Raquel also provides educational sessions, resources, and insight to private vaccine providers in Holmes County about how they may encourage Hepatitis A vaccines to patients in their practice.