New Jersey

Hepatitis A Outbreak Strikes Gloucester County

To combat the outbreak, the county is offering free vaccinations for those without insurance.

Health officials in New Jersey are urging people to get vaccinated amid an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Gloucester County.

The county has seen eight cases of the viral infection in the last nine weeks alone, county spokeswoman Debra Sellitto said in a news release. In a typical year, Gloucester County usually gets less than 10, she said.

The recent cases are unconnected to one another and have cropped up in different cities throughout the county. The infected are all adults over the age of 25, Sellitto said.

To combat the outbreak, the Gloucester County Department of Public Health is offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations to those who don't have insurance. People can call the health department at 856-218-4101 to make a vaccination appointment.

Hepatitis A infects the liver and is usually spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus through food, drinks or other items contaminated with "small, undetected" amounts of fecal matter from an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus can also spread from "close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill," according to the CDC. In rare cases, it can be fatal.

Symptoms of the infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes, the CDC says. People can reduce their chance of infection by thoroughly washing their hands after using the bathroom and before handling food.

Those with the highest risk of contracting Hepatitis A include the homeless, those who use injected or non-injected street drugs, men who have sex with other men and people who have direct contact with an infected person, the CDC says.

"If you are a person that is in one of those risk factor groups, get vaccinated," Sellitto said.

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