Homeless people and drug users are apparently experiencing the brunt of Kentucky’s uptick in hepatitis A virus cases.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) has charted the increase since Jan. 1, 2017, with 103 confirmed cases, which have included 78 hospitalizations. The seven most recent illnesses came in during the count for the week of Feb. 11-17, according to an update posted Tuesday.

The uptick in cases involving homeless people and drug users occurred since Aug. 1, 2017, according to KDPH. Viral sequencing has linked Kentucky’s cluster with hepatitis A outbreaks in California, Utah, Michigan and other states.

KDPH says it is “working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments to provide guidance and education to health professionals and at-risk populations.”

“Treatment for acute hepatitis A involves supportive care, with specific complications treated as appropriate,” KDPH added. “Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease.”

Kentucky declared the acute outbreak of Hepatitis A in November. Most of the cases are in Louisville with nearly 90 cases in a city that usually sees only one to four cases in a typical year.

The health department has vaccinated more than 4,300 people in Louisville. Hotel Louisville offered free vaccinations to its residents on Tuesday.

Health officials urge Louisville residents to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene as the best defenses against the spread of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a very highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect the liver’s ability to function.

Contaminated food or water or close contact with a person or object that’s infected is the most likely to get hepatitis A. Most people with a hepatitis A infection will recover completely with no permanent liver damage.

The incubation period for Hepatitis A is usually 14 to 50 day, meaning from the time to exposure to showing symptoms. Not everyone exposed gets sick and some people who are infected do not develop symptoms.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intense itching

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