Local health officials are taking preventative measures due to an increase in Hepatitis A activity across the North. Communities with recent cases include Burns Lake and area, Fort St. John and area, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and Vanderhoof.
A link has not been found between reported cases in different areas.
“To date, we have immunized over 300 people who may have been exposed,” said Dr. David Bowering, Chief Medical Health Officer. “But we are concerned that infected people could unknowingly be spreading it to others. Due to this increase in Hepatitis A activity around the North, we want to alert people to the signs and symptoms of infection… and how to prevent further spread of this disease.”
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver, caused by the Hepatitis A virus.
Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, fever, dark urine, pale-coloured bowel movements, and yellowing of skin and eyes. Symptoms can sometimes be so mild that many people may not be aware that they are infected.
People who are experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician, and should not handle or serve food to others until a diagnosis has been established.
“The good news is, we have an effective and safe vaccine”, said Dr.
Vaccination is free for those at increased risk for Hepatitis A such as contacts of cases, and people who already have liver diseases such as Hepatitis B or C. The vaccine is also available for purchase through physicians and health units for individuals traveling to countries where the disease is more common, as well as for members of the public who wish to protect themselves.
Careful hand washing, especially after using the washroom and before handling food, is the most reliable way to avoid Hepatitis A and various other communicable diseases. Hand washing should be conducted vigorously for
a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
For more information on Hepatitis A or other health issues, please call the BC NurseLine toll-free at 1-866-215-4700, or TTY at 1-866-889-4700 for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Registered nurses at this line can provide confidential health information and advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Translation services are available in 130 languages. See BC HealthGuide OnLine at www.bchealthguide.org for more information and the BC HealthFiles.