MORGANTOWN — Two inmates at North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, according to the Monongalia County Health Department.
Others at the jail are showing symptoms.
Officials with the Doddridge County Health Department coordinated efforts Saturday to collect 874 doses of Hepatitis A vaccine. Those vaccines came from the Monongalia County Health Department (500), Marion County Health Department (140), Harrison County Health Department (134) and Preston County Health Department (100).
North Central Regional Jail houses about 850 inmates. Seven volunteers from Monongalia and Harrison county health departments joined seven Doddridge County Health Department employees to administer vaccines to the inmates Saturday evening, according to a press release from the Mon County department.
“We found out about this at 11 a.m. (Saturday) morning and at 4 p.m., we started our vaccination clinic, which is amazing for our region,” said Robert White, regional epidemiologist from Monongalia County Health Department.
Southern West Virginia has been battling an outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and has landed in the Charleston-Huntington area, with 1,166 cases reported in West Virginia as of Sept. 7, according to the website for the state Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services.
“The overall goal is to vaccinate the entire prison population and protect them from Hepatitis A,” said Debbie Davis, administrator of the Doddridge County Health Department, who also expressed her appreciation for the help from other counties.
According to the OEPS website, the increase in Hepatitis A cases began in March and has primarily occurred among injection and non-injection drug users, homeless or mobile individuals and those who have been recently incarcerated. Viral sequencing has linked cases from Kentucky and California.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is spread through contact with feces of infected persons or through contaminated food or water. Drug users, homeless individuals, people in prison and people who live in unsanitary conditions are at a higher risk.
Symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice. The illness usually resolves itself within two months. However, in West Virginia, more than 52 percent of the individuals diagnosed with Hepatitis A were hospitalized and two have died.
The inmates at North Central Regional Jail who contracted Hepatitis A came down with jaundice and had flu-like symptoms, and Hepatitis A was confirmed on Friday. Four additional inmates then presented with similar symptoms.
Health providers from Mon County who traveled to Doddridge County to administer vaccines include epidemiologist Robert White and Threat Prep coordinator Joe Klass.
Dr. Lee B. Smith, county health officer and executive director at Monongalia County Health Department, said he was happy that regional public health staff came together to respond to the outbreak.
“I am very proud at how our six-county region was able to mobilize and put forth an emergency vaccination clinic for 850 people in an attempt to stem this multi-state viral hepatitis,” Smith said.
He also noted that the CDC recommended that all first responders get vaccinated for Hepatitis A by contacting their local health departments.
There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B but not Hepatitis C.
To make an appointment to get a Hepatitis A vaccine at MCHD Clinical Services, call 304-598-5119.