LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease caused by the HAV. The numbers of those infected have spiked in Louisiana.
Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, medical director for the Southwest Regional Office of Public Health, said the increase in cases has been rapid.
“If you look at data from years, we were normally only getting maybe five to 12 cases a year," Cavanaugh said. “Now, we have an outbreak of 72 cases since the beginning of the year.”
Of those 72 cases, there has been a 60 to 70 percent hospitalization rate.
According to the CDC, the cases were most heavily found in North Louisiana. Cavanaugh says there is a risk that it will spread.
“Patients will have abdominal pain, they’ll have fever, nausea, and vomiting," Cavanaugh said. "Sometimes they get a yellowing color of the skin called jaundice or they notice changes in their urine, it gets dark.”
She says it’s most easily spread by contact with someone who has the virus and high-risk groups such as the homeless, those with a history of substance abuse, or those who are incarcerated. Fortunately, there is a vaccine.
“We currently have a 180 doses in our region that are free that are intended to go out in those high risk populations," Cavanaugh said. “We are getting another shipment of close to 200. Care Help in Sulphur, the Biker Church, Abrahams Tent, City of Refuge in Vinton, and the prison system. We’re actually in touch with them.”
Cavanaugh says it’s better to be safe than sorry and to contact your physician for more information on the vaccine.
Cavanaugh says until vaccinated, the best thing you can do is wash your hands.
“Hand wash, hand wash, hand wash; that’s probably the most important," Cavanaugh said.