ABCs of hepatitis: What’s the difference between A, B, and C?
Public health officials in South Carolina warn of a Hepatitis A outbreak in Aiken County. An employee at a second restaurant in Aiken tested positive for the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The second restaurant, City Billiards, reported the case to state officials on Feb. 12, DHEC said. The bar and restaurant is about a block away from Aiken Brewing Company, which reported a worker with Hepatitis A Jan. 31.
“In light of these findings, DHEC is declaring a hepatitis A outbreak in Aiken County,” DHEC said in a press release. “An outbreak is defined as an unexpected increase in the number of cases in a geographic area or time period. There have been 10 hepatitis A cases diagnosed in Aiken County since December 1, 2018.”
State officials said they do not know of any connection between the two cases.
The state warns anyone that could have come in contact with the virus should get vaccinated. DHEC said it will make vaccines available for free to anyone who may have been exposed.
Time is a factor to get vaccinated after exposure, DHEC said. “The vaccine is not shown to prevent infection when administered more than 14 days after a specific exposure. However, vaccination more than 14 days after exposure will give long-lasting protection from infection from future exposures.”
“The risk of the hepatitis A virus spreading from an infected employee to customers in a restaurant setting is low,” state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in the press release. Still, DHEC said, people who have eaten there should get vaccinated or be on the lookout for symptoms.
People who ate at City Billiards from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 should “contact their healthcare provider, or come to the Aiken County Health Department,” DHEC said.
Anyone who ate at the restaurant from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5 could have come in contact with the virus, but the vaccine will not help anyone exposed earlier than Jan. 31, according to DHEC.
“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within 2 months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection,” the CDC explains.
According to DHEC, “Nationally, there is a rise in hepatitis A cases in many states. These cases have mostly been seen in people who use injection or non-injection drugs, those who are homeless or have no permanent residence, men who have sex with men, people who have a history of incarceration, and those who have close contact with infected individuals.”