What public health officials have called an outbreak of hepatitis A has been reported in Carroll County, and the CDC says that Georgia is one of 29 states experiencing a surge of the highly contagious liver infection.

In response, a free Hepatitis A Vaccination and HIV testing event will be held in Carroll County on Dec. 3.

The health officials said 46 cases of hepatitis A were reported among Carroll County residents between April 1 and November 16. Statewide, there have been 562 cases reported since January 1. A total of 65 cases have been in District 4 Public Health, which encompasses not only Carroll County, but Butts, Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup, and Upson counties.

Health officials are urging vaccination against the highly contagious liver infection for people most at risk of the vaccine-preventable disease, especially for illicit drug users — injection and non-injection--and their close contacts. Officials are also encouraging all persons who work in food-service establishments, such as restaurants and cafeterias, to be vaccinated.

The free hepatitis A Vaccination and HIV Testing event will take place Dec. 3 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Carroll County Department of Community Supervision on 924 Maple St., in Carrollton.

“We are urging individuals with one or more of these risk factors, especially illicit drug use, to get the hepatitis A vaccine. Additionally, World AIDS Days is being celebrated on Tuesday, December 1,” said Hayla Folden, public information officer for District 4 Public Health. “Although our focus is on hepatitis A, it is necessary to raise awareness about the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic and its impact on our communities.

“What we know is that individuals at risk for hepatitis A may also be at risk for HIV and; if left untreated, may subsequently become at-risk for AIDS which is the end-stage of the virus without treatment. To this end, we are providing both hepatitis A vaccines and HIV rapid-testing for free in a one-stop shop,” says Folden.

The Carroll County Health Department, on 1004 Newnan Road, Carrollton, is offering free hepatitis A vaccinations during regular business hours and appointments are preferred.

There are currently five types of hepatitis virus — A, B, C, D and E — that attack the liver.

Information provided by Tanner Health Center says hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease that is easily spread from person to person (highly contagious) but in most cases. It does not cause long-term infection, but a patient can take six months or more to fully recover. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause severe liver damage, leading to death.

The disease is often spread when the virus is taken in by mouth, such as when a person has contact with objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by the stool of an infected person.

This can happen when an infected person does not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom; if a parent or caregiver doesn’t wash their hands well after changing diapers or cleaning after someone who is infected, or if a person has had sex with someone who is infected.

Symptoms of hepatitis A often look like flu symptoms and can include fever; chills; joint pain; extreme tiredness (fatigue); overall feeling of weakness; loss of appetite; upset stomach or nausea; vomiting; belly (abdominal) pain; dark urine; clay-colored stools; yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice); and diarrhea.

Some adults have no symptoms. Most children have no symptoms, especially children younger than 6 years old. A diagnosis can be determined with a blood test.

Treatment of hepatitis A can vary but can include bed rest and medication. The vaccine does not have a live virus and therefore an individual cannot get hepatitis from the vaccine.

DPH encourages anyone who is unsure if they should get the hepatitis A vaccine to talk with their doctor about their specific concerns.