Since February of 2018, there have been hundreds of reported cases of Hepatitis A across the state and even one death.
The outbreak has many Arkansans concerned. So tonight 11 Listens get answers for one viewer who wants to know why Jonesboro, in particular, has had so many cases.
Fever, fatigue, nausea are just a few of the symptoms of hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver disease caused by the hep a virus. It's primarily foodborne, but in northeast Arkansas, Dirk Haselow, an Epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health said that's not the case.
"This outbreak which is national is actually more associated with some behavioral risk factors like drug use and high risk sexual behaviors,” said Haselow.
The Department of Health’s Hep A awareness map shows 254 cases reported in the ongoing outbreak. Jonesboro, located in Craighead County, is the largest community in northeast Arkansas. This county shows 70 to 90 cases reported. And one viewer wants to know, “Why so many here?”
“I think to some extent is poor luck. It's crept across the border from Missouri and has slowly worked its way down from the northeast corner of the state to Jonesboro,” said Haselow.
It's now moving past Jonesboro to the counties below it.
And while there have been warnings of possible exposures to customers at restaurants in Jonesboro, there have been new measures put in place.
“Many restaurants in the area have on their own created a policy where all food workers need to be vaccinated and we applaud them for doing that certainly reduces their risk in the future,” said Haselow.
Most people who get hep a recover completely, but they may feel sick for months, so getting the vaccine, especially in affected areas is vital.
“The rate of cases has begun to drop, and we think we're on the tail end of this break,” said Haselow.
ADH said the vaccine very safe and effective. One dose is about 94 percent effective in preventing the illness for the rest of your life.
The second dose gets you up to 99 percent.
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