Hepatitis A cases continue to spread in north Georgia

Hepatitis A cases continue to spread in north Georgia
Vaccination can prevent hepatitis A only if given within 14 days of exposure. (WHBQ)

ATLANTA — Health officials want to educate people about hepatitis A after dozens of cases were reported in north Georgia.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

The good news is there is a vaccine for hepatitis A and it is free at health departments in the North Georgia Health District, especially for people who are at high risk for hepatitis A infection. Even one dose of the vaccine can prevent the spread of the disease and an outbreak.

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Health officials have identified 71 cases of hepatitis A. However, there have been no deaths. Most cases in the district continue to be among the homeless and illicit drug use populations.

Free vaccines are in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties. To contact these health departments, log onto www.nghd.org and click on the locations tab.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the following groups be vaccinated against hepatitis A:

• All children age 1 or older.

• Men who have sex with men.

• Illicit drug users (injection or non-injection).

• Household members and close personal contacts of people with hepatitis A infection.

• People who are homeless.

• Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common.

• People with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.

That outbreak was traced along I-75 from Tennessee through Georgia and into Florida.