The Virginia Department of Health is urging everyone to wash their hands and get vaccinated as hepatitis A outbreaks have risen dramatically since last year.
Between Jan. 1, 2019 and April 19, 2019, cases of hepatitis A have risen 132% compared to the same time period in 2018, according to a news release from the health department.
As of April 22 of this year, 45 cases have been reported to the health department.
Virginia’s uptick in hepatitis A is part of a wider national trend. Since 2016, more than 15,000 cases have been reported nationwide, resulting in 8,500 hospitalizations.
Hepatitis A’s most recognizable symptom is jaundice of the skin or eyes. The health department says other symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, dark urine and clay-colored stools.
The best way to prevent the virus is to get vaccinated. Frequently washing hands, especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before preparing food is also important.
The virus is spread through contact with an infected person or by eating or drinking something that has been contaminated with it.
Virginia’s health departments are trying to increase the number of hepatitis A vaccinations statewide, with a focus on those who are most at risk for the virus: the recently incarcerated, those experiencing homelessness, drug users and men who have sex with men.
The health department says even if you are not a member of any of those groups, anyone who wants the vaccine should get it.