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Posted on: January 31, 2024

Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Shawnee County Health Department Collaboration

For Immediate Release Graphic

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Shawnee County Health Department (SCHD) announced today that residents can access a dashboard to stay up to date on a person-to-person outbreak of hepatitis A that began in August 2022. KDHE and SCHD have been in communication and collaborating with local providers since the outbreak was recognized.

The outbreak has been primarily affecting persons in Shawnee County who are experiencing homelessness, unstable housing, drug use (injection and non-injection), occupational risk of exposure, or close contact with an infected person. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 100 cases have been identified, with 15 of those cases reported in 2024. There have been 28 cases that have resulted in hospitalization and no deaths.

The case dashboard can be found online. In addition to tracking the outbreak, the dashboard contains frequently asked questions, provider resources, and vaccination clinic information. It will be updated each Wednesday during the outbreak.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through contaminated food or water or close contact with an infected person. Infection can range from mild symptoms lasting a few weeks to severe illnesses lasting months. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes). While death from hepatitis A is very rare, it can occur in individuals with severely compromised immune systems, those who are older, or those who also have hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections.

“Hepatitis A is a serious disease, and vaccination is the best way to prevent infection. Everyone should also practice good hand hygiene, including washing your hands before preparing or eating food, and avoid sharing needles. This will not only protect yourself but also help protect those around you,” said Dr. Dereck Totten, KDHE Chief Medical Officer.

Key Information for the Public:

  • Hepatitis A is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. This can happen through sexual or close person-to-person contact with an infected person or ingestion of contaminated food or water. 
    • This outbreak is currently spreading through close personal contact and is not spreading because of contaminated foods, drinks, or infected food handlers.
  • Everyone should practice good hand hygiene, including thoroughly washing their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
  • Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent hepatitis A. The vaccine series usually consists of two shots, given six months apart, and has been licensed in the United States for use in people one year and older. However, one dose of the hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to effectively control outbreaks of hepatitis A. Talk to your doctor or local health department with any questions you may have about getting vaccinated. People who should get vaccinated include: 
    • People who use injection or non-injection drugs;
    • People experiencing unstable housing or homelessness;
    • People currently or recently in prison;
    • People at increased risk of severe disease from infection, such as those with chronic liver disease or viral hepatitis infection; and
    • People who provide care for individuals experiencing homelessness, drug use, or the elderly.
  • Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing and ask if you should be tested. The SCHD provides hepatitis A vaccinations to the general public; call SCHD at (785) 251-5700 or visit https://www.snco.us/HD/immunizations.asp for details.

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