Kentucky has more than 1,600 cases of Hepatitis A, but Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Howard says that rise in cases has prompted people outside of the high-risk groups to recognize the seriousness of the outbreak and the opportunity for prevention.
"The message is getting out there loud and clear and it is making people more receptive to vaccine," he said.
Hepatitis A has been especially hard on the large number of people in Kentucky who already had another liver disease: hepatitis C. Howard says nearly all the people who have died from hepatitis A also had diagnosed with hepatitis C.
Howard says things may be improving.
There are now more than 1,600 cases in Kentucky spread across 85 counties. But Howard says data shows that the arc of the disease may be slowing.
"There are at least some good signs that we are heading in a direction that is better than previously."
Howard says as the outbreak has gotten worse people have started to take more preventative measures. That includes getting a vaccine.
Those in high risk groups – the homeless, people with substance use disorders and men who have sex with men – can get free vaccine at their local health department. People with insurance can go to their primary care provider or the local pharmacy.
Howard says thorough hand-washing with warm water and soap doesn't cut it.