SAFFORD — With three confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Graham County, Health Department workers have gone the distance to help everyone receive vaccinations.
The Courier contacted Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies regarding an individual who was infected with hepatitis A in Graham County Jail. The individual was an inmate who had traveled across the county border and was residing in the jail when it was discovered he was infected.
However, this individual stayed in the jail in April and was quickly isolated from the other inmates, and given medical care. McCormies stressed that the inmate’s illness was a singular incident.
“We’ve had a total of three but they’ve actually occurred because of travel. The cases weren’t contracted here; they were contracted elsewhere,” said Brian Douglas, Graham County Department of Emergency Management director.
“I think we’ve just had one case related to the outbreak because it’s not uncommon to have hepatitis A as a foodborne thing. Sometimes people get some bad fish from Mexico. So it’s not uncommon to have a hepatitis A case, but I think we had one case that we can link to the outbreak. And they do genetic testing to make sure that it’s exactly the same strain,” said Graham County Health Department Director of Nursing Mellissa Lunt. “It’s (the infected inmate) the only one we have had that is related to the outbreak so far. And we prophylactically vaccinated all the close contacts to the case.”
Lunt told the Courier that county officials have offered vaccines to the transient communities within the area. She added that, thus far, all of the transients that the Health Department has come into contact with have not contracted hepatitis A.
“I’ve told all the homeless community that if they need the vaccine, if they change their mind after the education, they can come in and we can vaccinate them. It will be an ongoing effort,” Lunt said.
Symptoms of hepatitis A include:
• Sudden nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the upper right side beneath your lower ribs (by your liver)
• Clay-colored bowel movements
• Loss of appetite
• Low-grade fever
• Dark urine
• Joint pain
• Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
• Intense itching
Key factors to fight off hepatitis A include receiving the vaccine and washing hands.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, since November 2018, there have been 353 cases of hepatitis A in the state of Arizona, with an 80-percent hospitalization rate. So far, two individuals have died of the disease. The ADHS terms the hepatitis A situation a “large outbreak.”