Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Health officials: Fairgoers not at risk

August 22, 2001

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Reno County Health Department have announced that they are not recommending that Kansas State Fair attendees receive hepatitis A vaccination before going to the state fair.

Health officials say that most people in Kansas, including those living in Hutchinson, state fair workers, and state fair goers are not at increased risk for acquiring or spreading hepatitis A, despite an outbreak of the disease in Reno County.

"There is no reason to think that people are increasing their risk of getting hepatitis A by going to the state fair," said Dr. Gail Hansen, Kansas deputy state epidemiologist. "It is important to emphasize the difference between a community-based and a communitywide outbreak. This is a community-based outbreak, where no one facility or person is the source of the outbreak, but it has not spread to the entire community of Hutchinson."

Food service workers are not considered at increased risk for getting hepatitis A. KDHE is not recommending hepatitis A vaccine for state fair food workers unless they fit into an identified high-risk group.

Reno County is using money made available from KDHE to purchase vaccine to give to persons at highest risk for developing hepatitis A or for those at highest risk for complications following infection. KDHE does not discourage vaccines for the general public, but the vaccine purchased with money from KDHE is available only to those people at highest risk.

That includes:

Sexually active homosexual men.

Users of illegal drugs.

Friends and family members of the two risk groups above.

Persons with clotting factor disorders.

Persons with chronic liver disease.

Friends and family members of those who have had hepatitis A in the past six months.

Since November 2000, KDHE has received reports of 63 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Reno County. The Reno County Department of Health and KDHE have been collaborating to contain the community-based outbreak.

Efforts to contain the ongoing outbreak include administration of Immune Globulin (IG) to contacts of known cases, vaccination, aggressive case management, active surveillance and education.

Prior to this outbreak, Reno County averaged one to two cases of hepatitis A per year. The majority of hepatitis A cases in Reno County this year belong to a high-risk group for developing hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is a virus spread through fecal-oral contamination. Close person-to-person contact or food or water contaminated with an infected person's feces can be sources of infection. Thorough hand washing is a key to prevent infecting others. Generally, about half of the people with hepatitis A do not have an identified source for their infection, though the most frequent source of infection is either a household or sexual contact of a known case.

Infected food workers who fail to wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and touch ready-to-eat food with bare hands are more likely to spread the disease to a large number of people.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). Symptoms begin two to seven weeks after infection.

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