ANDERSON – Madison County health officials are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A since September that is part of an outbreak across Indiana.
Since September, the Madison County Health Department has confirmed 35 cases of hepatitis A. The average in previous years was two cases.
Stephanie Grimes, administrator for the county Health Department, said Thursday the Indiana State Department of Health reported an outbreak in 2017 in northern and southern parts of the state.
“In July, the state identified 27 counties, including Madison County, that were at risk for an outbreak of hepatitis A,” Grimes said.
She said Madison County was included because the county's needle exchange program for drug users was terminated in August 2017.
Aspire Indiana reinstated a needle exchange program in Madison County in July 2018.
Grimes said the target population for the hepatitis A outbreak is people who are homeless, transient, incarcerated and illicit drug users.
She said the Madison County Health Department has been making the hepatitis A vaccine available in the Madison County Jail, Madison County Community Corrections and the Christian Center.
“The vaccine is 90 percent effective,” Grimes said. “The increase is taking place because people are not using good hand-washing habits.”
Transmission of hepatitis A occurs person to person through fecal-oral routes or by consuming contaminated food or water.
Grimes said no contaminated commercial food products have been identified as causes.
Indiana law has required a hepatitis A vaccine for admission to schools since 2014 and, as of 2018, requires sixth- and 12th-graders to be vaccinated.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by washing hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers and before preparing meals.
The vaccine is available at the Madison County Health Department for $30. The vaccine is also available from local pharmacies and health care providers.