Secretary of Health Issues Statement Regarding Hepatitis A Outbreak in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin B. Johnson today issued the following statement regarding the recent hepatitis A outbreak in Beaver County, Pennsylvania:

"The Department of Health is continuing its investigation of the source of the recent hepatitis A outbreak. Epidemiological teams from across the region and state are actively interviewing people and investigating contacts to determine its origin and scope. In addition to Department of Health investigators, we have engaged epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to assist in our efforts, as is typical in these situations.

"Over the past four days the Department of Health has screened and administered immune globulin (IG) to over 7,000 citizens. At the same time, the epartment immediately increased the number of personnel to administer IG and to investigate the outbreak, conducting detailed reviews of people who may have been exposed to the infection and their families. The process will continue in an effort to find answers and curtail the spread of this infection."

The department has screened more than 7,990 people. About 7,560 injections of immune globulin have been given. More than 185 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed. One death associated with hepatitis A has been confirmed in a patient with a pre-existing, liver-related medical condition.

The department is recommending that people who ate at the Beaver Valley Mall Chi-Chi's restaurant after Oct. 22 receive an injection of immune globulin, an antibody treatment that will greatly lessen the chance of acquiring the disease. People who ate at the restaurant before Oct. 22 will not benefit from immune globulin but should remain alert to the development of hepatitis A.

The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool of people with Hepatitis A. It is spread from person to person by putting anything in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool containing hepatitis A. The virus is easily spread in areas with poor sanitation or poor personal hygiene.

Concerned residents are encouraged to contact their doctors with questions or to get tested for hepatitis A. The Department of Health's toll-free information line (1-877-724-3258) will also remain available to answer any questions.

People who develop hepatitis A may experience a range of symptoms, including fever, tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice and a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes. The disease may appear suddenly and last from one to several weeks. People who develop jaundice from hepatitis A are typically infectious for two weeks before and one week after jaundice begins.

Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health

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