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Vermont Health Dept. warns of hepatitis outbreak

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 5:07 PM EST
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Vermont is in the early stages of a hepatitis outbreak.

The Vermont Department of Health says there were 12 reported cases of hepatitis A and nine cases of hepatitis B in 2019.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says that's concerning because the average for the past few years was just three cases per year.

Levine says most of the cases are in the southern part of Vermont because the other states on the border are experiencing more of an outbreak.

He says hepatitis A is transmitted through hand and oral contact. Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and needles. Levine says hepatitis A can make you sicker but B can leave you with more chronic symptoms. He says the viruses can live in your body for up to a month before you realize you have them.

Levine encourages people to get vaccinated, especially since there is no specific treatment.

"Generally, it's supportive care. So when you get very ill, same with hepatitis A, there's not really a medication that's going to treat the underlying infection. It's more to make sure you stay hydrated and get all the supportive care you need," Levine explained.

According to Levine, the vaccine is about 95% effective. The CDC recommends all children 2-18 get vaccinated.

The commissioner also says people who have used drugs, are homeless or in prison have a higher risk of getting infected.

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