MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — A hepatitis A outbreak in Mobile County continues to grow. Last month there were four confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A. Now there are 13 in Mobile County and two of those cases are in children. The spread of the virus to children is concerning to local health officials.
Hepatitis A, a virus that affects the liver, is spread person to person. While anyone can be infected, there are certain groups of people at greater risk of contracting the virus including drug users who share paraphernalia, the homeless, and those who have been incarcerated.
The two children in Mobile County who contracted the virus were exposed by family members, according to the Mobile County Health Department.
“We’re seeing this hepatitis A outbreak spill over into our kids and it can be prevented, almost 100% prevented if you get the vaccine,” said Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department.
The hepatitis A vaccine is not required for school-aged children in Alabama. Health department officials want to prevent the virus from spreading in local schools and they’re asking parents to step up and help by making sure your child is immunized.
“We’re urging parents to check with their pediatricians, check with your healthcare providers, check with your school to see if your child has been immunized against Hepatitis A and if they have not, please get them immunized,” said Dr. Murphree.
The pediatric hepatitis A vaccine will cost whatever the co-pay is if the child is insured. If the child has Medicaid, the child can receive Vaccines for Children (VFC) vaccine at no cost. If the child is not covered by Medicaid or insurance, the child can receive VFC vaccine at no cost but will be charged an administration of $15 to $19. The administration fee is based on income, so a proof of income is required to make that determination.
The Mobile County Health Department currently offers the hepatitis A vaccine at its Citronelle (19250 N. Mobile Street), Dauphin Island Parkway (2601 Dauphin Island Parkway), Eight Mile (4009 Saint Stephens Road), Newburn (248 Cox Street), North Mobile (950 East Coy Smith Highway) and Southwest Mobile (5580 Inn Road) Health Centers, as well as in Urgent Care and Pediatrics at the Keeler Memorial Building (251 North Bayou Street).
Doctors say the vaccine and thorough hand-washing are the best ways to prevent the spread of hepatits A.
“Adults with hepatitis A may have symptoms that include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. These symptoms usually resolve within two months of infection,” said Dr. Burnestine Taylor, Medical Officer for Disease Control and Prevention at Alabama Department of Public Health. “Children less than 6 years of age generally do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection. Almost all people who get hepatitis A recover completely.”
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