While hepatitis A cases in Highland County have not increased in the past year, nearby rural counties have been impacted by what the Ohio Department of Health has called a “statewide community outbreak” of the disease — and local officials are bracing for impact.
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner on Wednesday told county commissioners that the Highland County Health Department hopes to arm locals with the information — and the vaccines — needed to ward off an outbreak here.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver disease that usually spreads when a person ingests fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts, from contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by the stool of an infected person. It can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or shared intravenous drug use.
Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, clay-colored stools and jaundice. Those who contract the disease can experience mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
At-risk individuals are people who have direct contact with those infected with the virus, travelers to countries where it is prevalent, men who have sex with men, people who use street drugs whether they are injected or not, people with blood clotting factor disorders, people with chronic liver disease, and household members and other close contacts of adopted children newly arrived from countries where hepatitis A is common, according to the ODH.
Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and chief of the ODH Bureau of Infectious Diseases, said in a news release that the best way to prevent the spread of the disease is hand washing and vaccination.
Warner said the Highland County Health Department carries the hepatitis A vaccine, as do local pharmacies. People who are under-insured or have no insurance can get discounts on the vaccine through a state program, he said.
Warner told Sheriff Donnie Barrera, who was also in attendnace, that law enforcement officers, especially those who work closely with inmates, should be vaccinated.
For more information on hepatitis A and other communicable diseases, contact the Highland County Health Department at 937-393-1941. The health department can also be found online at highlandcountyhealth.org.
In other matters Wednesday, Warner said Highland County Job and Family Services is offering grant funding for back-to-school supplies for local students. Students can receive up to $150 for supplies if they meet certain requirements. JFS can be reached at 937-393-4278.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy said the county is working to meet the Aug. 1 deadline for submitting an updated budget to the Department of Justice for the Rocky Fork Lake economic development grant. Abernathy said former commissioner Shane Wilkin, who took the lead on the grant prior to his resignation from the board, left notes for commissioners to review. Abernathy said he has met with Clerk Nicole Oberrecht, who has had a large part in securing the grant, and plans to continue discussion on the matter.
Barrera told commissioners that his department is expected to save about $240 per year on a heavy duty dish washing machine due to an upgrade and changes in the company that services them.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said union negotiations continue between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the sheriff’s office. Barrera said there will be a negotiation meeting next month.
Duncan said high-speed boat races will be held at Rocky Fork Lake July 21-22. He also commended the Festival of the Bells for a successfull event at Southern State Community College.
The commissioners also approved routine financial resolutions.
Commissioner Terry Britton was on vacation and absent Wednesday.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.