(WAVY) — The local health department wants to help those most at risk during the Hepatitis A outbreak by giving free vaccinations to those who can’t afford them.
Virginia reported 268 Hepatitis A cases in 2019. Most cases were in Southwestern Virginia. Of those cases, 171 of those people diagnosed had to be hospitalized.
In Hampton Roads, 21 cases were reported on the Peninsula, eight in Hampton and seven on the Southside. The Southside cases include four in Virginia Beach and one case each for Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.
Chesapeake Health Department epidemiologist Lisa Engle told 10 On Your Side workers are visiting homeless shelters and jails with the vaccine.
Those two populations are at high risk for contracting Hepatitis A. Others at high risk include drug users and men who have sex with other men.
“So, if they are in that high risk group and they are under-insured or no insurance, either one, we will offer that vaccine at no charge to those people,” Engle said.
The disease attacks the liver. Symptoms include: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, itching, jaundice and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
Some people however, have no symptoms at all.
“And they’re the ones that transmit it very easily,” Engle told WAVY.com.
Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated food or from person to person. Usually it happens when people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
That’s why the vaccine is strongly recommended for those who work in restaurants.
10 On Your Side reported in October 2019 that a Poquoson restaurant worker had the disease, as well as back in 2016 when 69 people in six states got sick from strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
Engle says everyone should consider the vaccine, but especially those at high risk.
Vaccines are available at the Chesapeake Health Department at the walk-in immunization clinic Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.