After Hep A outbreak, Bartholomew County offering free vaccines

Data pix.

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- The state has been dealing with a hepatitis A outbreak for more than 18 months, but this spring the outbreak spiked in Bartholomew County.

According to the county's director of nursing, Amanda Organist, the county has 36 cases since April. That makes it the fifth highest total of any Indiana county, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Overall, there are nearly 1,600 cases across Indiana.

"We’ve been trying to do some prevention," Organist said. "It’s definitely kept us busy and on our toes."

Two restaurants have had reported cases but Organist said that's not the main source of the outbreak in her community.

That's why it's using a state program to offer free vaccinations to people who want them.

So far, more than 2,900 people have gotten vaccinated but Organist wants many more to join in the effort to prevent the spread.

"We’re really just targeting anyone who hasn’t had their vaccine," Organist said. "So, we can provide the first dose to them at these clinics."

Organist hoped people who are not insured or under insured will stop by.

So far, clinics will take place at the Love Chapel Food Chapel on June 24 and June 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. Another will take place on July 2 at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Organist said more clinics will be held, including at the county's upcoming county fair.

"With the first dose, you get 94 to 96 percent coverage for ten years," Organist said.

So far in June, the county has not had any confirmed cases but Organist said ten tests are being done and did expect some of those to come back positive.

The State Department of Health's website said the hepatitis A outbreak in Indiana began in 2017. It has caused four deaths and 851 people to be hospitalized. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 160,000 people have received vaccinations in the state.

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