Northern Health Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak in Dawson Creek
Dawson Creek, B.C. – Northern Health is currently monitoring five confirmed cases of Hepatitis A in Dawson Creek.
“Our initial investigation into increased cases leads us to believe that there was an exposure sometime in October, all the cases are very well confined to the Dawson Creek area, we haven’t seen it anywhere else,” says Dr. Sandra Allison, Northern Health’s chief medical officer.
“The investigation is still open right now. As we gather information we try to determine whether there was a point source of food or whether there was an ill food handler. We haven’t determined that yet. There’s a lot of information we’ve gathered from five cases and all of their contacts and we’re trying to sort through it to find the most likely exposure.”
So what exactly is Hepatitis A?
“It’s a virus that infects the liver. It can make you feel quite unwell but it isn’t life-threatening for the most part,” says Allison.
“Most people will develop nausea, vomiting, they can have diarrhea. Generally there’s quite a bit of abdominal pain, you can develop jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin. As well, some people can complain of joint pain.”
She adds Hepatitis A is a vaccine preventable disease. “Most people associate a Hepatitis A vaccine with traveling because it’s not a very common infection in Canada. So when you go to other countries, we do see there are countries that have Hepatitis A circulating which is why we recommend you get it when you travel.”
Allison notes says the incubation period for Hepatitis A is up to 50 days.
“So we do ask people to recall what they ate seven weeks ago which leads to pretty significant challenges because my memory is not that good.”
She says the best way to avoid contracting Hepatitis A is to thoroughly wash your hands.
“We recommend diligent hand washing for everyone, whether you’re handling food or caring for elders.”
If you are experiencing the symptoms of Hepatitis A, Northern Health recommends speaking to your family physician, contacting HealthLink BC at 8-1-1, or calling your local public health office.