'My Old Kentucky Home' has Hepatitis A

Over 400 hepatitis A cases reported in Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky during 2018 outbreak

horse race on dirt track,

There are few American sporting events as popular as the Kentucky Derby, boasting 155,000 attendees.

With its rich traditions, such as sipping mint julep cocktails and wearing beautiful hats, the ‘Derby’ is a true icon of Americana. 

But, the 2018 'Run for the Roses' in Louisville, Kentucky may bring an additional admission requirement… Hepatitis A vaccination certification.

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is often transmitted when people do not wash their hands properly or do not have access to proper sanitation.

Such as in the 80,000 people planning to be in the Kentucky Derby infield.

So far during 2018, Indiana (77) and West Virginia (31) have joined Kentucky’s Health Department (352) in confronting Hepatitis A outbreaks.

Most of these Hepatitis A cases have been reported near the Kentucky Derby’s host city of Louisville, KY, leading public health officials to announce various vaccination options.

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As an example, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) announced it is recommending the Hepatitis A vaccine for everyone living in 6 adjacent counties.

“In these counties with local transmission of the hepatitis A virus, we recommend everyone is vaccinated per Kentucky guidelines to help stop this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting DPH commissioner.

Additionally, the Indiana Department of Health is urging their residents to get the vaccine if they have any immediate plans to visit Kentucky

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And this outbreak may not be an isolated trend.

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of hepatitis A virus infections reported to CDC increased by 44 percent to 2,007 cases in 2016. 

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says 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.

For people who do have contact with a person with Hepatitis A virus, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended by the CDC for unvaccinated people who have been exposed during the previous 2 weeks.

In the USA, there are three FDA approved hepatitis A vaccines:

  • Vaqta and Havrix are approved for people ≥12 months of age in a 2-dose series
  • A combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B Twinrix vaccine is approved for people ≥18 years of age in the United States.

In the greater Louisville, KY area, pharmacies such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Kroger Little Clinics offer hepatitis vaccines.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides current HAV vaccine contract prices and general information, and vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.