Hepatitis A hits Unicoi County   

Staff Reports

  Mass vaccination clinics are being held in Unicoi County for children age 2 through middle school (eighth grade) against Hepatitis A. Vaccinations are being given to help contain a recent outbreak of Hepatitis A that the Department of Health is currently investigating. A total of 11 confirmed cases have been reported since June 8.
  "Periodically, outbreaks of Hepatitis A occur throughout communities; it's not unusual," said Beth Rader, spokeswoman for Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office "Most cases come through from a food handler."
  The vaccination clinics will be held at the Unicoi County Middle School beginning Wednesday, June 16, through Friday, June 18, for students attending Unicoi County Middle School and Temple Hill Elementary School.
  Students from Unicoi County Elementary, Rock Creek Elementary and Love Chapel Elementary are asked to come beginning Monday, June 21 through Thursday, June 24. Clinics are scheduled from 10 a.m. through 6:30 p.m. each day.
  According to Rader, there was a specific case at Unicoi Middle School, so they felt the need to get those students immunized immediately. Many students at Unicoi County Elementary have been immunized already. "We've split the schools up each week to make it as easy as possible for the community," she said.
  Parents of children age 2 and older who are not enrolled in school need to bring the child's birth certificate and proof of residency to prove they are a current Unicoi County resident. Children living outside Unicoi County will not receive the Hepatitis A vaccination unless they are enrolled in the Unicoi School System.
  Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease, is caused by an infection with the Hepatitis A virus, which is spread from person to person. The virus can spread before an infected person knows they are sick. Adults will have signs and symptoms more often than children.
  Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A
  * jaundice (yellow color of the skin or eyes)
  * fatigue
  * abdominal pain
  * loss of appetite (nausea)
  * fever
  * diarrhea
  There is no chronic or long term infection, and once you've had hepatitis A you cannot get it again. The hepatitis A vaccine is the best protection against the virus.
  Prevention is the key to slow and or stop the spread of hepatitis A. The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is by washing your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before preparing and eating any food. According to Rader an outbreak can be contained partially by performing good hygiene.