A Hepatitis A outbreak results in the first death reported from the virus in the state. The highly contagious liver infection primarily spreads through close contact. Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter says in Louisiana the cases recorded since January 2018 sees the biggest impact in two main risk categories.

“People who are homeless and people who inject drugs, that’s the overwhelming majority of cases that we seen so far in the state,” said Kanter.

Kanter adds the virus spreads rapidly when people are in close quarters in such settings as homeless shelters or jails.

About two-thirds of those diagnosed with Hepatitis A are having to be hospitalized in this most recent outbreak, which Kanter says is higher than normal. Many people who have it end up doing fine, but some end up having worsened liver damage or even liver failure. Kanter says at first someone may experience vague symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

“A little later they might have some abdominal pain, they might have dark colored urine, might have some blood in their bowel movements and eventually they get jaundice, with yellowing of the skin and yellowing of the eyes,” said Kanter.

For those that are high risk, Kanter says there is action that can be taken to reduce the chance of contracting the virus.

“Get another dose of the vaccine, a booster if you will, or if they haven’t been vaccinated at all, an initial vaccine,” said Kanter.