Friday May 19, 2006
LOUISVILLE, KY (May 16, 2006) – The Louisville Metro Health Department will be offering a limited number of free hepatitis A&B vaccines at the Kentuckiana Pride Festival, June 17 at the Belvedere.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are viruses that cause liver disease. The symptoms of acute hepatitis include fever, weakness, and jaundice.
According to Dr. Matt Zahn, medical director for the Louisville Metro Health Department, approximately 90,000 people have symptomatic Hepatitis A infection each year in the United States. Approximately 100 people die each year from the disease.
“Hepatitis A causes acute illness and is passed from person to person by the fecal-oral route,” said Zahn. “This means an individual’s mouth has come into contact with an object contaminated with stool from someone who has hepatitis A.”
Hepatitis B can cause acute or chronic disease and is spread by exposure to the blood or bodily fluids of someone with acute or chronic infection, Zahn said.
“Chronic hepatitis B infection usually is life-long, and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, and liver failure,” he explained. 5,000 people die every year in the United States from health problems associated with hepatitis B.
Specific groups are much more likely to acquire hepatitis A or B. According to Zahn, hepatitis A is much more common in men who have sex with men and IV drug users or in people who travel to parts of the world where hepatitis A is an important risk factor. Hepatitis B is particularly common among men who have sex with men, IV drug users, those with multiple heterosexual partners, and immigrants from certain parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, China, and Eastern Europe.
Mothers with acute or chronic infection can infect their infants with hepatitis B during pregnancy, and these infants are likely to have chronic disease.
“Many people infected with hepatitis A or B have no symptoms but still can infect other people,” said Zahn. “Such ‘silent’ infections make these viruses difficult to eradicate from a community. Vaccinating all children, as well as adults who fit into the high-risk categories mentioned above is the key to controlling their spread.”
For more information on hepatitis A and B contact the Louisville Metro Health Department at 574-6699. For more information on the Kentuckiana Pride Festival call 502-649-4851 or visit www.kentuckianapridefestival.com
The mission of the Louisville Metro Health Department is to protect, preserve and promote the health, environment and well-being of the people of Louisville. To learn more about the Health Department’s programs and services call us at 502-574-6520 or go to www.louisvilleky.gov/health