Press Release

July 15, 2009


State Public Health Director Cautions Residents of a Cluster of Hepatitis A Cases

So far 11 confirmed cases

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, is reminding people of the importance of proper hand hygiene after reports of 11 confirmed and two suspected cases of hepatitis A were reported in residents living in Henry, Mercer and Rock Island counties. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with local health departments, is investigating to determine the source of the illness as quickly as possible.

“Hepatitis A is a virus that can be carried on the hands of an infected person who does not wash his or her hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. You can become infected by direct contact with a person who does not practice good hygiene or by consuming food or drink handled by an infected person,” said Dr. Arnold. “Your best defense against getting ill is to properly wash your hands –use soap and warm water and rub your hands for 20 seconds.”

Hepatitis A can also be spread in child day-care settings, especially if good hygiene is not practiced after changing diapers. It also is due to the close personal contact among children, who are still learning to practice proper hygiene.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, poor appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and sometimes fever. Urine may become darker and jaundice may then appear. Symptoms can appear from 15 to 50 days after exposure. If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor or a medical professional.

The infectious period begins about one week before the onset of symptoms if there is no jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). If jaundice occurs, the infectious period begins two weeks prior to that and last until seven days after the onset of jaundice. Because of the delay in symptoms, a person can transmit the virus without realizing it.

Along with proper hand washing, those who work in food service, health care or in occupations where hepatitis A may be spread, should not work while infectious. Those who have close contact with someone who is ill with hepatitis A should contact their physician about vaccination.

The disease is rarely fatal, and most people recover in a few weeks without any complications. Infants and young children tend to have very mild or no symptoms and are less likely to develop jaundice than are older children and adults. Not everyone infected with the virus will have all of the symptoms. There are no long-term effects. Once an individual recovers from hepatitis A, he or she is immune for life and does not continue to carry the virus. People experiencing symptoms should contact their physician. Physicians are reminded that confirmed or suspected hepatitis A is a reportable condition.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is continuing to investigate the source but reminds residents of the importance of proper hand washing for food service, day-care, and health care workers.

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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