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May 22, 2003

WRHA Issues Public Notice of Hepatitis A Outbreak

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is issuing this public notification about an outbreak of hepatitis A in the city.

In the past week, 12 cases of hepatitis A have been reported to Public Health. All of the cases have occurred in adults living in Winnipeg. As of today no source of the infection has been confirmed, but Public Health's investigation of the outbreak continues. Contacts of all cases have been offered a hepatitis A vaccine in an attempt to prevent further spread of the illness.

Winnipeg physicians were notified of the outbreak May 20. Based on the epidemiological data to date, more cases may occur and Public Health is now requesting that any person experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A seek medical attention. Symptoms of hepatitis A are: yellow skin &/or eyes (jaundice), pale stools and tea-coloured urine, which may be accompanied by fever, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort and severe fatigue. A diagnosis of hepatitis A is confirmed by a blood test.

This disease varies in severity from a mild illness lasting one to two weeks, to a severely disabling disease lasting several months (rare). In general severity increases with age, but complete recovery without after-effects or recurrences is the rule. Infections in children may be mild and without jaundice.

This disease can be caused by consuming food or drink contaminated with the virus. Poor hygiene in food preparation is frequently identified as a source of contamination in such outbreaks.

Of the 12 cases reported so far, four were admitted to hospital. One has since been released. They range in age from 20 to 75. Eight are women, four are men. All but two of the 12 - family members - are unrelated. All live in neighbourhoods in south Winnipeg.

Public health staff have identified a number of associations between the cases and continue to actively investigate them.

Members of the public seeking more advice are asked to contact visit the WHRA's website www.wrha.mb.ca or call HealthLinks at 788-8200.

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