SALYERSVILLE – The Magoffin County Health Department confirmed this week there are two cases of Hepatitis A in Magoffin County, though neither are reported to be food service related.
Salyersville Mayor and Magoffin County Health Department Director James “Pete” Shepherd explained to Mortimer Media Group on Monday they had confirmed two cases of Hepatitis A in Magoffin County, but they have investigated both cases and neither were related to food services.
Shepherd explained that if anyone has any questions about Hepatitis A, he or she can call the health department, but reminded the public that the Hepatitis A statewide outbreak will dissipate over time.
“We’re doing all the preventative measures we can do to keep everyone happy and healthy in the future,” Shepherd said.
Following the recently-passed Food Handling Ordinance, passed by the local public health board, they are teaching food handler classes at the health department to prepare restaurant workers on how to safely handle food, which is now a required class for all food service workers in the Magoffin County.
Furthermore, they are also offering Hepatitis A vaccines for the public, which includes two doses given six months apart.
While the food services side of the Hep A outbreak gets the most media coverage, Shepherd explained it more of a problem with drug users, with which they are avidly trying to prevent the spread of diseases, including implementing a needle exchange program.
The Magoffin County Health Department’s Needle Exchange Program, which started in June, currently has 18 participants, has taken in over 500 needles and dispersed close to 1,000 needles in efforts of stopping the spread of diseases, including Hepatitis C.
The needle exchange program is completely anonymous. People wishing to participate can go to the door on the back side of the health department and ring the doorbell. They will be buzzed in and taken into the needle exchange room, where they will be able to receive a supply of needles, then will be able to exchange the needles at a 1-to-1 ratio.
Through the program, they will be able to receive other services offered by the health department, including but not limited to HIV testing and drug counseling.
Hepatitis A causes flu-like symptoms and is highly preventable with proper hygiene. It is spread by the fecal/oral route, unlike Hepatitis B and C, which is spread by contaminated blood.
Shepherd explained that Hepatitis C is a much more severe virus that can have long-lasting negative effects on the body, but the needle exchange program is a way to combat it.
“The needle exchange is not promoting drugs,” Shepherd said. “It’s promoting health. If we go to the park or Parkway Drive, we find needles thrown out. Thrown in trash cans and in yards. That’s the problem. What if a child picks up a needle with Hep C? Then we have a problem.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released that for every Hepatitis C case reported, 33 are not. The Magoffin County Health Department sees about seven Hep C cases per week, which would mean an estimated 231 cases are occurring, but not being reported in Magoffin every week.
There is a Hepatitis C treatment that is considered 90 percent effective, but reportedly costs $120,000.