There have been five confirmed cases and one suspected case of hepatitis A in Mecklenburg County since April, according to a health advisory released by the county’s public health department.
According to the county, the number of cases since April 20 has exceeded Mecklenburg’s annual average.
According to Mecklenburg County Public Health, hepatitis A is a "highly contagious liver disease caused by a virus spread from person to person." The illness can last from weeks to months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that cases of hepatitis A have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2012. The CDC said there were 1,200 reported cases last year, resulting in 826 hospitalizations and 37 deaths. Outbreaks of the virus have occurred in six other states: California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and West Virginia.
People are most at risk of contracting hepatitis A through sexual encounters and recreational drug use, the county said. The best way to prevent the virus is with the vaccine. Mecklenburg Public Health is set to begin a vaccination program.
Residents with health insurance can get the vaccination from their regular doctor’s office. The vaccine is also available for free at the Northwest Health Department and the Southeast Health Department locations for residents who are deemed most at risk of contracting the virus.
More information about hepatitis A is available at meckhealth.org.