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Hepatitis A outbreak grows in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Health warns that the virus can spread easily - but adds that there's an easy way to protect yourself.

ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Health is urging the public to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A as the infection continues to spread in the state.

The state agency reports that it has identified hundreds - as many as 250 - of cases involving the highly-contagious liver infection since June 2018.

In an earlier report, the state health department reported that nearly 60 percent of infections, as of March, happened in northwest and north Georgia, as well as the Augusta area, though the numbers overall are statewide - and have grown significantly since then.

The agency added that the state's outbreak mirrors others around the nation "among injection and non-injection drug users, homeless populations and men who have sex with other men."

Recent warnings add that people who are - or have recently been - incarcerated and those with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or other forms of hepatitis, are also at risk.

But the state is assuring the public that the virus and resulting infection are preventable through vaccination.

Hepatitis A symptoms can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. It can cause death in rare cases.

Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, yellow skin or eyes, dark urine and clay-colored stool.

The state has recently released a flyer for food handlers to help prevent the spread, since Hepatitis A can be found in small, undetectable amounts of stool that might contaminate food.

The flyer stresses the importance of washing hands after restroom breaks and between tasks - and doing so properly.

Most importantly, though, the state warns food workers who have symptoms of the infection to stay home and not come to work. Also, they should tell a manager if they have symptoms of, are diagnosed with or have been in contact with someone who has Hepatitis A.