BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In the past several months, the vaccine for hepatitis A has become part of the routine conversation between many parents, their children, and doctors.
“We’ve been asking everybody when they come in this summer. Hep A outbreak is in Livingston Parish. Let’s go ahead and get your child vaccinated,” Dr. Michelle Flechas said. “And I can tell you, I haven’t had anybody tell me no yet. Everybody has taken it.”
Dr. Flechas is a pediatrician at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health Clinic in Baton Rouge. Nurses at the health clinic have made the same walk to the medicine cabinet for the past few months to prepare the hep A vaccine. Dr. Flechas says that’s a good thing; about 100 kids have gotten the shot.
“What I tell my patients is that if I wouldn’t give it to my own child, I wouldn’t offer it to your child,” she said. “I can tell you a bunch of parents have been coming in and actually asking for it. This Louisiana outbreak has got a lot of parents afraid.”
As of July 26, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) confirmed more than 400 cases of the disease.
Among the hundreds of patients out there fighting the virus, the youngest is a 5-year-old child, according to LDH. More than half the people diagnosed have been hospitalized, officials say.
Unfortunately, doctors say the hep A vaccination hasn’t been around long enough to make sure everyone is covered.
“Any child that’s between 0 and 11-years-old should have had their hep A vaccine already because it became part of the routine vaccines at that point. Any child 12-years-old and above, it was not part of their routine,” Dr. Flechas explained.
That means some kids and many adults are playing catch up, or at least Dr. Flechas thinks you should. The medicine lasts for up to 20 years.
“The hep A vaccine is a series of two, so it’s day one and then again six months from now,” she said.
One way hep A is contracted is by eating or drinking something that has been contaminated, for instance, when someone with the virus goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wash their hands, then cooks your food. To avoid passing the germ along, consider frequent trips to the sink.
“Of course before you go out to eat,” Dr. Flechas said. “But also, just throughout the day, when you’re at school. So many kids have so many germs, runny noses, coughs, and colds.”
Experts are encouraging parents to bring their child to get their back to school vaccinations as soon as possible.