The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has identified an increase in individuals with Hepatitis A virus in the region from north of Gravenhurst to Huntsville, and is currently investigating to identify any potential common exposures or risk factors/behaviours.
“There are currently 12 cases of Hepatitis A that have been reported since October 2019,” said Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “Typically in Simcoe Muskoka, we have between zero and six cases of Hepatitis A virus reported each year. Therefore it is important that the public is aware of this increase and monitoring for symptoms.”
The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through immunization with the Hepatitis A vaccine. Hepatitis A vaccine is free for people who are at higher risk of getting the virus, including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and persons with chronic liver disease. However, anyone over the age of six months can and should consider getting the Hepatitis A vaccine through their health care provider or pharmacy. Some private health care plans will cover the cost of Hepatitis A vaccine.
Hepatitis A virus is found in the stool/poo of infected persons. Those infected persons can spread the virus to others by not washing their hands well enough after using the toilet or diapering children, and then touching food, drinks, surfaces and objects that others may then come into contact. This is how the Hepatitis A virus can then go into your mouth and infect you. It is therefore important to carefully wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A may include fever, feeling sick (nausea), loss of appetite, and tummy (abdominal) discomfort, followed by signs of jaundice (yellowness of the skin, and/or eyes). Small children usually have mild or no symptoms. Symptoms of Hepatitis A typically develop about four weeks after exposure to the virus, although this period can range from 15 to 50 days. You can spread the virus to others even before you develop symptoms, therefore proper handwashing is very important.
There is no specific treatment for the Hepatitis A virus. People with this infection generally recover at home. Some people who may not have strong immune systems or liver disease can be at greater risk for more severe complications due to the Hepatitis A virus, and may require care at the hospital.
If you are experiencing symptoms or are interested in the Hepatitis A vaccine, please follow up with your primary healthcare provider.
For information about Hepatitis A virus see smdhu.org or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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