Public health officials have confirmed 11 cases of hepatitis A among Bartow County residents since June 2018 and are urging vaccination against the highly contagious liver infection.
They’re encouraging people considered as high risk to contact the disease as well as those working in food-service establishments to be vaccinated.
The Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive, Cartersville, is offering free hepatitis A vaccinations during regular business hours. No appointment is needed.
The 11 hepatitis A cases are the first confirmed in Bartow County residents since a serious uptick in Georgia hepatitis A cases began last June. According to the CDC, Georgia is one of 18 states experiencing an outbreak of the highly contagious liver infection.
Since June 2018, 471 cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed statewide. Of these, 204 cases, 43% of the state total, have been in the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District, which includes Bartow County. The health district normally confirms, on average, one case per year.
“Hepatitis A is spreading among Bartow County residents,” said Dr. Zachary Taylor, interim health director for the Northwest Health District, “and we want to stop it here before it gets to the level we’ve seen in other Northwest Georgia counties. The best protection against hepatitis A is vaccination.”
The increase in Northwest Georgia hepatitis A cases, public health officials believe, is related to a hepatitis A outbreak in neighboring Tennessee that has sickened over 1,600 people since December 2017.
“We noticed the spread of illness go across the state line from Tennessee into Georgia,” says Northwest Health District Epidemiologist Melissa Hunter. “We’ve watched it move south, roughly following U.S. Highway 27, I-75, and their surrounding counties, propelled by illicit drug use, both IV and non-IV.”
For more information about hepatitis A and free hepatitis A vaccinations, contact the Bartow County Health Department at 770-382-1920 or visit nwgapublichealth.org.