Mississippi is experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, and one case has been reported in Union County, according to state health officials.

There have been 23 cases of Hepatitis A reported in Mississippi since April. No deaths have been reported, but people have been hospitalized.

Four cases have been reported in neighboring Benton County. The increase in Hepatitis A cases in the state follows trends nationally as well as in neighboring states.

“An outbreak occurs when we see an increased number of cases greater than what is normally expected over time,” said State Epidemiologist Paul Byers.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. It can be spread when a person ingests the virus through food or drink that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

It can also be spread through close, personal contact with an infected person, including sexual contact and sharing or handling objects with someone who is infected.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes, stomach pain, low appetite and fever.

“In Mississippi, our most at-risk populations are those who use recreational drugs, are currently in jail or were recently in jail, men who have sex with men, and those with unstable housing or who are homeless,” said Byers.

Hepatitis A can be prevented through a vaccine. Other prevention measures include practicing strong hygiene habits such as thoroughly washing your hands after using the bathroom.

“We are strongly recommending that all persons who are at higher risk get hepatitis A vaccine,” said Byers. “Hepatitis A vaccine can be obtained through your provider, pharmacist and at all county health departments for uninsured or underinsured persons,” said Byers.

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