ADH Holds Hep A Vaccination Clinics in Northeast Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) held a Hepatitis A (Hep A) vaccination clinic on June 11 in Piggott. Another clinic will be held June 15 from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Greene Co. Health Unit at 801 Goldsmith Rd. in Paragould. 

These clinics are for anyone at higher risk of getting Hep A. Risk factors include: close contact with someone who has Hep A; restaurant workers; people with infections or chronic diseases like Hep B or C, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes; drug use; homelessness; or incarceration. If you do not fall into a group with a high risk of getting Hep A, but are still concerned about Hep A, see your doctor or healthcare provider.

At these clinics, the shot is provided at no cost to the patient. ADH will bill the patient’s insurance, if the patient has it. Patients should bring their insurance card and driver’s license, if they have one.

Since February of 2018, 31 cases of Hep A have been reported as part of an outbreak in northeast Arkansas, with a majority of the cases in Clay and Greene counties. Cases have also been found in Lawrence, Randolph, and Craighead counties. All of the cases have been in adults.

“The number of cases in this Hep A outbreak is continuing to rise,” said Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist. “There are numerous Hep A outbreaks occurring across the country. We are encouraging everyone in these areas to be aware of the risk factors for getting Hep A and to get vaccinated if needed.”

Handwashing can also prevent the spread of Hep A. If soap and water are not available, clean hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 80% alcohol. Hep A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It is usually spread when a person ingests tiny amounts of fecal matter from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person. Hep A can also be spread through unprotected sex or the sharing of injection drugs.

Typical symptoms of Hep A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. A person can transmit the virus to others up to two weeks before and one week after symptoms appear.

The virus can cause illness anytime from two to seven weeks after exposure. If infected, most people will develop symptoms three to four weeks after exposure. Many people, especially children, may have no symptoms.  Up to one in three adults are typically hospitalized. Almost all people who get Hep A recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for months.

Hepatitis A is preventable through vaccination. Hepatitis A vaccine has been recommended for school children for many years, and one dose of Hep A vaccine is required for entry into kindergarten and first grade as of 2014. Most adults are likely not vaccinated, unless they received vaccinations prior to traveling internationally. Patients can contact the closest county health unit for more information about vaccination. A listing of county health units can be found at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.