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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

June 26, 2002

HEALTH DEPARTMENT PREPARED TO OFFER HEPATITIS A VACCINE
 AS CASES CONTINUE TO RISE IN STATE AND COUNTY

  Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department says local health statistics reflect the statewide increase in Hepatitis A cases, especially among men having sex with men. 

According to a new review conducted by the Epidemiology Section of the NC Division of Public Health, there were 242 cases of Hepatitis A reported in North Carolina in 2001.  During the first five months of this year, there were 118 cases reported.  That’s 85 percent higher than the average number of cases reported in the same time period over the past five years, and a 141 percent increase in cases compared to the first five months of last year. 

The trend is evident in Mecklenburg County.  According to the Health Department’s Epidemiology Program, there were 48 new cases of Hepatitis A reported in the County in 2001.  The five-year average for reported cases is 18.  The Department’s Communicable Disease Control Program, which tracks these numbers, says the increase in Hepatitis A cases in Mecklenburg County is also being seen in men having sex with men. 

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease.  The Health Department offers this vaccine through its clinics. It is given in a series of two doses over five months and costs $60 per dose for adults and $32 per dose for children.  To make an appointment for any vaccination, call the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s appointment line at 704-336-6500. 

Effective February 2002, a new North Carolina statute requires clients infected with the Hepatitis B virus to be counseled about the Hepatitis A vaccine. The Hepatitis A virus is spread through person-to-person contact or through water or food contaminated with the feces of an infected individual.   The virus causes an abrupt onset of fever, malaise, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal discomfort.  These symptoms are often followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) within a few days.  However, not everyone infected with Hepatitis A becomes jaundiced and children often do not have any symptoms of infection. In rare cases Hepatitis A results in death.  The average time between infection and onset of symptoms is one month.  The virus is most transmissible during the two weeks prior to and for a few days after the onset of jaundice.  The State study can be seen here.



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