Health officials working to combat Hepatitis A outbreak as Harrison County reaches 53 cases

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Hepatitis A is a highly contagious illness that is spread through the consumption of trace amounts of fecal matter. Harrison County has the hightest number of Hep A cases in North Central West Virginia, with 53 confirmed cases in this outbreak.

Because of this outbreak, health and state officials are looking for more ways to keep residents safe.

"Our strategies with the state officials was to figure out how do we get these vaccines to those at risk?," said Dr. Mark Povroznik, Chairman of Infection Control at UHC. "In addition, health care facilities across West Virginia are helping to screen."

Dr. Povroznik says the best way to prevent the spread of Hep A is through vaccinations, especially for those who could be at risk such as those volunteering with the homeless population and drug users.

In August, the Harrison County Health Department announced free Hep A vaccines to un-insured first responers who can come into contact with the illness easily. The same can be said for health care providers.

"We have exceeded over 400 associates being vaccinated so far at UHC and we'll continue to do so through 2019."

Through vaccinations, screenings, and increased awareness, the number of Hep A cases have been decreasing but health officials say we're still in the middle of an outbreak.

"The rates in West Virginia started at about 90 cases per week. With these efforts we're down to about 20 cases per week, but we shouldn't celebrate just yet. Because historically it has been 10-12 cases per year."