Officials warn of spike in hepatitis A cases across New Jersey

CAMDEN, New Jersey -- The New Jersey Department of Health is reporting hundreds of more cases of hepatitis A compared to this time last year.

Six cases in the state were deadly.

"Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver. It's transmitted through what we call fecal/oral routes," said Dr. Hisham Elgenaidi, Medical Director of Hepatology at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, N.J.

Sister station WPVI spoke with Elgenaidi inside the hospital's Liver Disease Center about the spike in hepatitis A cases in New Jersey and other states.

There were 67 cases this time last year in New Jersey. There have been more than 500 confirmed cases so far this year.

Elgenaidi says the cases he's seen this year have been more severe.

"This issue I really worry about is patients with chronic liver diseases, hepatitis C or fatty liver disease. When they get hit with a disease like hep A, as virulent as this one is, they could very well develop liver failure," he said.

Officials in Somerset County put out a health alert this week after a food worker was confirmed to have hepatitis A at a Shop Rite in Somerville, New Jersey.

Customers who shopped during the patient's infectious period were advised to throw away any deli items they purchased, and to get vaccinated if they ate any of the deli items purchased in the last two weeks of October.

Doctors are advising people to constantly wash their hands and, when it doubt, get the vaccine.

What are the symptoms?

"They feel very tired. They don't want to eat. They get nauseous. They can see yellow discoloration of the eyes," said Dr. Elgenaidi.

Camden County officials and they've stepped up outreach efforts, especially with the homeless population, in light of a spike in hep A cases. State health officials say there have been 140 cases in Camden County so far this year.

The New Jersey Department of Health is posting weekly updates online.

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