Hepatitis A causes quarantine at Nelson County Jail

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

Twenty-three inmates at the Nelson County jail are quarantined in a cell after an inmate tested positive for hepatitis A earlier this week.

Nelson County Jailer Dorcas Figg confirmed Wednesday night that one inmate had tested positive and was being treated at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown.

“We’ve all been exposed to it, anybody working with inmates,” Figg said. “It is not throughout the jail. It is confined to one cell.”

Figg said only the one inmate had tested positive and none of the quarantined inmates had shown symptoms of infection. She said they were being closely monitored.

But the inmates had not yet been vaccinated as of Wednesday night because the Nelson County Health Department did not have any vaccines to distribute, Figg said.

The cell where the infected inmate was lodged is used to hold trustees and work-release prisoners. Figg said the prisoners would not be allowed to leave the cell until the jail had obtained vaccines, but she was not sure when that would be.

One of the prisoners works at a restaurant, and three of the trustees work in the jail’s kitchen, which could be cause for concern that the infection could spread.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by a virus. A person is most likely to be infected with hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that is infected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include fatigue, sudden nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort, loss of appetite, clay-colored bowel movements, low-grade fever, dark urine and joint pain, among others. Symptoms can be mild and go away in a few weeks, or could lead to serious illness that lasts several months.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people are at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis A if they:

• travel or work in areas of the world where hepatitis A is common

• attend child care or work in a child care center

• live with another person who has hepatitis A

• are a man who has sexual contact with other men

• have any type of sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A

• are HIV positive

• have a clotting-factor disorder, such as hemophilia

• use any type of illegal drugs (not just those that are injected)

Kentucky and Indiana have become the latest states to report outbreaks in areas. Health officials confirmed a case in a Lexington elementary school Wednesday. A new state law requires students to have a hepatitis A vaccine starting this fall.

In Ashland on Monday the second case was confirmed at a restaurant, according to WKYT in Lexington. Two food service workers in Louisville, at Mark’s Feed Store restaurant at 11422 Shelbyville Road, and Panera restaurant at 1801 Rudy Lane, were diagnosed by Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health is pushing for people to get vaccinations in six Kentucky counties: Jefferson, Bullitt, Hardin, Greenup, Carter and Boyd. All of those counties had seen at least five cases as of mid April.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Kentucky Department of Health had identified 400 cases since August and declared a statewide outbreak back in November. There have been three Kentucky deaths this year. The state normally sees about 20 cases a year.