RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A total of 495 new hepatitis A cases have been reported in North Carolina this year.
These cases are part of a national hepatitis outbreak that began in 2017. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received more than 41,000 reports of hepatitis A.
Following the recent spike in cases, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with local health departments is coordinating outreach events, conducting case investigations and contact tracing and providing hepatitis A vaccines to those at risk.
Hepatitis A is a contagious, but vaccine-preventable liver infection that can have mild to severe symptoms.
Common symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and stomach pain. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or eyes), dark-colored urine and clay-colored bowel movements may also occur.
Illness from the virus can range anywhere from a few days to several weeks, with symptoms appearing for an average of 28 days.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through food or water that has been contaminated with small, undetectable amounts of feces from a contagious person
Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on Wednesday, NCDHHS is advising anyone with symptoms of hepatitis A to contact their health care provider or their local health department to be tested and linked to care assistance.
"The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A is through vaccination," said Dr. Erica Wilson, vaccine-preventable disease medical director in NCDHHS' Division of Public Health. "As always, good handwashing is key, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers and before preparing or eating food."
The Hepatitis A vaccine is available for free at all local health departments including for those in high-risk groups such as people who use drugs, people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing and men who have sex with other men.