Hepatitis A cases hit South Moravia

Hygienists urge people to wash their hands this holiday season

Some 401 people in South Moravia have contracted hepatitis A, and the outbreak is still expanding. It is the largest outbreak of the disease in the area since 1990. Hepatitis A is a virus spread mainly by dirty hands, and hygienists have been recommending that people take particular care to wash their hands properly.

No common source for the infection has been found, and most of the afflicted people are between 25 and 44 years of age, according to Renata Ciupek, director of the anti-epidemic department of the Regional Hygiene Station in Brno, South Moravia.

About a third of the outbreak has been traced to people with “distinctive lifestyles” such as people sharing marijuana cigarettes. But it also cuts across social lines. “Hand washing isn't common among many people that we would expect to do it. Just go to the theater during the break, and it is quite surprising how many ladies after using the toilet not wash their hands,” Ciupek told the media.

The coming of the Christmas markets, which puts people in close contact, is a cause of concern to hygienists. Oversight of public hygiene facilities will be tightened, but consumers at the markets have to be responsible in their actions and wash their hands, and also not share drinking cups or make other similar types of contact.

South Moravia currently has half of the hepatitis cases in the Czech Republic.

The disease is caused by a virus and symptoms usually last several weeks to several months. Patients can have a range of symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. Patients should follow doctors' advice and eat a balanced diet and consume liquids to replace what is lost. Hygienist Ciupek says infected people should lead a “frugal lifestyle” for at least half a year.

The disease is most dangerous to the elderly and people who have previously had some liver problems. In the United States, for example, the mortality rate for hepatitis A was four deaths per 1,000 cases for the general population, but 17.5 per 1000 in those aged 50 and over.

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