December 16, 1999
DIRECTOR URGES HAND WASHING TO COMBAT HEPATITIS A
SPRINGFIELD, IL Due to a recent increase of hepatitis A cases in the metropolitan St. Louis area, Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, is urging citizens to practice good hand washing techniques to protect against the spread of this viral infection.
As with many communicable diseases, the incidence of hepatitis A can be eliminated by proper hygiene practices, Dr. Lumpkin said. People should always wash their hands after using the toilet and before handling food. The hand washing advice before preparing food is especially important at this time of year as families and others gather to eat as part of holiday celebrations.
Hepatitis A is spread through close personal contact with infected persons or by eating or drinking food or beverages handled by an infected person who has not thoroughly washed his or her hands after having a bowel movement. The virus is contracted through the mouth, multiplies in the body and is excreted in the stool of an infected person. Persons who are infected with hepatitis A may not know it, but are capable of infecting others approximately two weeks before symptoms begin.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and occurs 15 to 50 days after exposure to an infected person. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, dark colored urine and, in many infected persons, yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes. Diarrhea is usually not present with this disease but, when it is, the risk of transmitting the virus to others is increased.
The disease is rarely fatal and most people recover in a few weeks without any complications. Children with hepatitis A often do not have symptoms, but can transmit the virus to others if hands are not washed.
Cases of hepatitis A in the metropolitan St. Louis area have been associated with infected food handlers, changing diapers at a day care center and household transmission; in some instances, the type of exposure is unknown.
There have been 63 reported hepatitis A cases in Macoupin (3), Madison (44), Randolph (2) and St. Clair (14) counties to date in 1999 compared with 35 for all of last year. Only St. Clair County has a total less than the number for all of 1998 (18). Last year Madison County recorded 17 cases, while Macoupin and Randolph counties had no cases.
Statewide there have been 694 cases of hepatitis A reported compared with 821 in 1998.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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