McLean County Health Department communicable disease coordinator Melissa Graven draws vaccine for a flu shot on Aug. 28, 2019, at the health department, 200 W. Front St., Bloomington. Graven said that the Hepatitis A outbreak continues even though the number of new cases statewide and in Illinois has slowed.

BLOOMINGTON — The outbreak, in McLean County and statewide, of a highly contagious disease has slowed.

But public health officials warn that the Hepatitis A outbreak is not over and people should contact their health care provider and get vaccinated if they have been exposed.

"Hepatitis A has made its presence known in McLean County and we need to stay vigilant," said Melissa Graven, McLean County Health Department communicable disease coordinator.

Illinois remains in outbreak status for hepatitis A, said Melaney Arnold, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

"While the rate of new cases has slowed, we are still continuing to see higher-than-normal hepatitis A activity in Illinois," Arnold told The Pantagraph on Monday.

Vaccination, other steps advised for Central Illinoisans to reduce flu risk

Hepatitis A, which began a nationwide rise in 2016, has sickened 160 statewide since IDPH declared an outbreak in Illinois in December 2018, according to IDPH. Nearly 67 percent have been hospitalized and one person has died, Arnold said.

Graven reported in August that McLean County had 12 cases, including six county residents who had become ill in the previous two weeks, including men who have had sex with men, users of heroin and other drugs and people who are sharing needles, people who are homeless and people who are in prison or have been recently incarcerated.

"We are still sitting at 12 ... with no deaths locally," Graven said.

The only counties in Illinois that have had more cases are Cook with 61 and Edgar with 24.

Other Central Illinois counties that have had cases include Peoria and Vermilion with six each; Champaign with three; Ford, Tazewell and Sangamon with two each; and Douglas, Macon, Mason and Woodford with one each.

"Our hope is that awareness, education, outreach and vaccination have decreased the number of new cases," Arnold said.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that is spread by coming in contact with an infected person's waste, by sharing personal items or having sex with someone who is infected, by consuming food or drinks handled by an infected person, or by sharing needles, drugs or cigarettes with an infected person.

Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice, dark urine, clay-colored stool and joint pain. While there is no treatment, people generally are sick for a few weeks before their body clears the disease, Graven said.

In response to the outbreak, IDPH has distributed vaccine to health departments. McLean County Health Department has made the vaccine available for free through its clinic, through Chestnut Family Health Center and Bloomington-Normal hospitals.

In addition, the health department has had vaccination clinics at the county jail, homeless shelters and Chestnut Health Systems.

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Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech


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