The first death in West Virginia related to an outbreak of hepatitis A has occurred in Kanawha County, health officials said Thursday, May 24.
The state Bureau for Public Health said in a news release that a 33-year-old Kanawha County resident died Wednesday. The statement said the victim had several conditions that contributed to the death.
State health officer Dr. Rahul Gupta said the resident had been hospitalized since being diagnosed with hepatitis A in early April. He said it’s unknown how the disease was contracted because health officials had not interviewed the victim.
Gupta said there have been 121 confirmed or suspected cases of hepatitis A in eight counties, most of them in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by a virus. It is usually transmitted person-to-person or by consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice.
On Wednesday health officials urged hepatitis A vaccinations for restaurant and food service employees in Kanawha and Putnam counties. Three vaccinations clinics are scheduled over the next week in Charleston. Eight food establishments in Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties have been identified as having a worker confirmed with hepatitis A.
Gupta said the risk of hepatitis A to the general public remains low.
“People need not panic,” he said in a telephone interview. “Go visit restaurants and go about their daily living. Just exercise caution.”