The La Paz County Health Department has vaccines available for hepatitis A. Arizona and other states are currently experiencing a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A. It has been seen primarily among at-risk individuals, who include illicit drug users, people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, and those who have recently been incarcerated.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there have been 446 cases in the state since November 2018. These included 81 new cases in April, 91 new cases in May and 79 new cases in June. There have been three deaths, and 78 percent of the cases have been hospitalized.
While no cases have been reported in La Paz County, the county borders on three other counties have had had cases: Mohave, Yavapai and Maricopa.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease. It spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by even microscopic amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person, such as sexual contact or caring for someone who has the disease.
People who are infected can spread the virus for about three weeks before and after symptoms appear. Symptoms include fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Some people, however, do not show any symptoms.
Hepatitis A is highly contagious, but it is also very preventable. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.
In addition to the above high-risk groups, vaccination is highly recommended for those who work in Restaurants or in Daycare due to handling of food and/or diapers.
The La Paz County Health Department currently has a supply of vaccine that can be given free of charge for those who have not been previously vaccinated or have not had the disease.
The vaccine available at the County Health Department office at 1112 Joshua Avenue, Suite 206, in Parker. The office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. While walk-in clients are accepted, the department suggests calling ahead to make sure a nurse is available.
Other times and locations include from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the Ehrenberg Fire Department, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the Quartzsite Fire Department, and from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. the first Thursday of each month at the Centennial Community Center located in Centennial Park off U.S. Route 60 between Wenden and Salome.
In addition to vaccination, proper hygiene and handwashing can help prevent the spread of the virus.
For more information, call La Paz County Health Department Monday – Thursday at (928) 669-1100.
Pioneer reporter John Gutekunst contributed to this story.