Jennings County has not been spared from the outbreak of hepatitis A cases Indiana.

The Jennings County Health Department is conducting another hepatitis A vaccination clinic from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Country Squire Lakes clubhouse.

"Indiana and Jennings County are in an outbreak of hepatitis A," said Pam Petry, the county's public health nurse. "This is why we're having clinics like this.

"Everyone needs a hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine is highly effective at preventing hepatitis A," she added.

The vaccinations are free, though those with health insurance that covers the vaccines will have their insurance companies billed.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there have been 959 outbreak cases and two deaths statewide.

Jennings County has had 29 hepatitis A cases reported during the current outbreak. In neighboring counties, the counts are Jackson County 32, Scott County eight, Jefferson County seven and Bartholomew County six. (Decatur and Ripley are not listed as the state does not list counties with five or less cases.)

The state reports that people most at risk during the outbreak are people who use illicit drugs (injection and non-injection), homeless individuals, those who are in jail or prison, men who have sex with men and close direct contacts of at-risk individuals (living in the same household, sexual contact, sharing needles or "works").

The rest of the general population is at risk, too.

"If you eat food - and who doesn't? - it's possible to get exposed to the hepatitis A virus," Petry said.

As an example, an employee with hepatitis A who worked at a Bloomington restaurant put hundreds of people at risk earlier this year.

"Ten years ago, I wouldn't be advising people to get the hepatitis A vaccine," Petry said. "But it's different today. Hepatitis is everywhere. It's the way of the world now. People need to get this vaccine, just like they do for tetanus. Adults need to catch up with young children in getting preventative vaccines. 'Third immunity' is good."

Since last August, Petry and other county health department personnel go to the Jennings County jail every couple of weeks to vaccinate inmates, specifically targeting the most at-risk people.

"This is voluntary and some inmates don't get vaccinated," Petry said. "Our first time at the jail we vaccinated about 80 people. Now, we vaccinate 15 to 30 each time we go."

"This is a good program," said Sheriff Kenny Freeman. "We're happy the health department is doing this. We definitely don't want an outbreak in the jail."

As another preventative measure, the health department will be distributing free Narcan kits at the CSL clinic Wednesday. Narcan is one of the trade names for naloxone, a heroin and opioid overdose antidote drug.
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