CAMP Safe: Hepatitis A Cases on the Rise in Delaware
|by Salvatore Seeley|
|During the past year, CAMPsafe has written some important articles about gay men's health concerns. One of these concerns has been about hepatitis A. Some of the men I have met during this past summer have told me they have gotten their Hepatitis A shots as a result of the articles or other information they received on hepatitis. Last week, I received a phone call from the Department of Public Health alerting me to a cluster of new hepatitis cases among gay men. According to the Delaware Division of Public Health there is a concern about hepatitis A among gay men in New Castle County. These New Castle County men either own homes in the Rehoboth area or have visited Rehoboth in the past two months. There might be a chance that these men infected Rehoboth residents or other summer visitors. Following is a summary of hepatitis A, which can create trouble if we don't play safe and take precautions.
What Is It? Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can make you very sick and can put you in the hospital. Hepatitis A is among one of the only sexually transmitted diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.
Who gets it? Men who have sex with men primarily get hepatitis A through sexual contact. Hepatitis A is spread through oral sex or rimming. Other activities such as handling a condom from someone who is infected, sharing sex toys or playing with a penis that has been used for anal pleasure also puts you at high risk.
You can also be exposed to hepatitis A by eating and drinking contaminated food or water, particularly while traveling to areas where Hepatitis A is common. Rehoboth during the summertime can be a breeding ground for Hepatitis A due to its transient nature.
Symptoms Symptoms usually begin 2 to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus and last 1 to 2 weeks.
Early symptoms in adults include nausea (upset stomach), loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and abdominal cramps (stomach or side pain).
Dark yellow or brown urine, pale or white bowel movements, and jaundice (yellow eyes or skin) may also be present but do not occur in all cases.
Persons can have all or only a few of these symptoms.
Most young children have only a mild flu-like illness without jaundice, or no symptoms at all.
How Is It Spread? The virus lives in the stool and enters another person when hands, food, or objects contaminated with the stool are put in the mouth. Spread occurs when an infected person does not thoroughly wash his/her hands after going to the bathroom, or from water or shellfish contaminated with the virus.
A person is most contagious during the 2 weeks before the illness symptoms begin.
People can spread hepatitis A virus to others before they develop symptoms.
Hepatitis A is not spread by kissing, sneezing, or by saliva.
Diagnosis & Treatment Hepatitis A is diagnosed with a blood test.
There is no medicine or other treatment that will make the symptoms go away faster.
Prevention The illness can be prevented by a shot of immune globulin within 2 weeks of exposure.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and running warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
Keep bathrooms clean and supplied with soap and clean towels.
Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.
Drink water from approved sources only.
What About Immune Globulin (IG)? Immune globulin (IG) prevents someone who has been exposed to hepatitis A from getting the disease if given within 14 days from exposure. IG is effective 80-90% of the time and protects against hepatitis A for about 3 months.
Immune globulin is necessary only if any of the following applies to you:
You live with someone who has hepatitis A.
You have eaten food or put objects in your mouth handled by the person infected with hepatitis A.
You have had sexual contact, or other intimate contact, with a person who has hepatitis A.
You are traveling to an area where hepatitis A is common.
You are a child or an employee at a child care program in which another child or employee has hepatitis A.
Get vaccinated! One of the ways we can avoid hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. The vaccinations are simple and are spread out over a period of several months. The Department of Public Health in Georgetown, Delaware, will be offering the new vaccine called Twinrex. Twinrex allows you to be vaccinated for both hepatitis A and B at the same time. This makes it convenient for anyone seeking to be vaccinated. These vaccinations are FREE at the Public Health facility in Georgetown.
For more information on hepatitis A, call Sal Seeley at CAMP Rehoboth, 302-227-5620. To schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, call Sandra Norris, RN at 302-856-5241.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 11, No. 13, September 21, 2001.