McLean County public health officials are turning up the volume on their hepatitis A prevention efforts after several new local cases emerged in the past week amid a statewide outbreak.
There have been 146 confirmed cases statewide, including 10 in McLean County—the second highest for any downstate county. That’s up from six cases just a week ago, McLean County Health Department (MCHD) communicable disease supervisor Melissa Graven told WGLT on Wednesday.
“It’s something we’ve tried really, really hard to prevent from happening,” Graven said. “We don’t quite have an answer yet as to why it’s gotten here.”
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is passed easily from one person to another through food, water, drug use, and sex. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) declared a statewide outbreak in December 2018 after seeing an increase in person-to-person transmitted hepatitis A cases.
In McLean County, those at highest risk are those who are homeless, use illicit drugs, men who have sex with other men, and those in close contact with somebody who’s tested positive.
The McLean County Health Department encourages anyone in a high-risk category to get a hepatitis A vaccine. IDPH has provided MCHD with vaccine doses that are available for free to those at highest risk of exposure, Graven said. In light of the new cases, MCHD is now working with community contacts to get information out about hepatitis A, Graven said.
“Our role is to basically provide as much education to the community as possible. Not a lot of people are familiar with Hepatitis A. It’s not something we see a lot here in Illinois,” she said.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.