Since January, 214 cases of hepatitis A have been detected nationwide. The uptrend began last June and has seen 281 cases in that state since then. In 2017, only 24 cases were reported. there were 37 in 2016.
One of the Hot Spots is located in Metro Atlanta, where 34 cases have been reported, including 19 in Fulton County. Others include the Augusta area and the northwest corner of the state, including Ringgold and Dalton, an area considered part of suburban Chattanooga.
The outbreak focuses on three groups of people: drug users, the homeless and men who have sex with men. David Holland, Chief Clinical Officer for Medical and Preventive Services at the Fulton County Board of Health, said the outbreak poses no threat to public health but is dangerous for these groups.
"We do a lot of work to make sure it stays calm," he said.
The outbreak started in California in 2017, and more than 15,000 cases have been reported nationwide, according to Centers for Disease Control and Protection. It caused 140 deaths, which Holland called the "unusual number" for the disease.
He said the department was following and expecting the spread. Fulton usually sees fewer than ten cases a year.
Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver and is transmitted through feces. It can be prevented by vaccinations, and Fulton County offers free vaccinations to vulnerable people in its health centers, Holland said. It has also vaccinated people in homeless shelters. The programs continue as long as the uptrend in the cases persists.
People who have been exposed to hepatitis A can also be treated within 14 days to prevent the infection. This can also be done in the health departments of Fulton.
"We want to stop it before we reach the level we have seen in other states, and we can prevent it from getting completely out of control," said Nancy Nydam, spokeswoman for the State Department of Health.
The disease mainly spreads through the intake of fecal matter, Nydam said. This can include fecal matter on clothes or hands. Groups work to identify people who have been exposed for treatment.
Holland said the disease is relatively contagious and can be contagious for one or two weeks before symptoms appear. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. Nydam said the disease is an infection that runs over time and then has no lasting effects.
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