INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- State health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to take steps to prevent from contracting a highly-contagious virus, especially before traveling.
Hepatitis A cases are on the rise across the country and in Indiana. Neighboring states are also seeing spikes in the virus.
"They may not think about Hepatitis A, because it is uncommon here in Indiana," said Pam Pontones, the Deputy State Health Commissioner and State Epidemiologist.
Since January, Indiana has seen at least 77 cases. Normally, there are less than 20.
The increase in Indiana could be related to the outbreak happening in Kentucky, particularly the Louisville area where have been 300 reported cases so far this year. In Michigan, there have been 800 cases and 25 deaths from the virus this year.
"Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It is easily transmitted from one person to another," Pontones said.
The outbreak could also be a result from injection drug use.
"Many of the cases that have been reported in some of the outbreaks do relate back to injection drug use. That is something that we are tracking very closely," said Pontones.
Health officials said they don't want to discourage Hoosiers from traveling, especially to bordering states. They do want to encourage you to take easy steps to prevent from contracting the virus, including washing hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. You can also get vaccinated.
"Only since about 2014, has vaccination requirement been in effect for school entry, so we know that there would be a large number of Hoosiers that potentially might be unprotected," explained Pontones.
According to the CDC, California and Utah are also experiencing Hepatitis A outbreaks.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A can take 15 to 50 days to appear. They include:
- Loss of appetitie
- Abdominal or joint pain
- Yellowing of skin and eyes
For more on the virus and ways to protect yourself, click here.