An inmate at the Franklin County Adult Detention Center tested positive for Hepatitis A Thursday.

According to Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton, a male inmate began complaining of health issues late Thursday morning. 

The detention staff transported the inmate to the hospital for an evaluation where health care providers diagnosed the inmate with a case of Hepatitis A. 

As a precautionary measure the Franklin County Health Department was contacted and Director Angie Hittson and Thursday night had already administered preventative vaccinations to about 20 jail personnel.

Health department staff were at the jail Friday vaccinating other staff and formulating a plan to rotate inmates into the medical area for vaccinations.

Hittson says she doesn’t recall any hepatitis A cases in the jail during her tenure with the county.

“We don’t see a lot of Hep A in Franklin County,” she said. “There have been cases reported in other jails in southeast Missouri.”

Although typically transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water, Hittson explained there has been a nationwide rise in Hep A in the intravenous drug user community.

“We haven’t found a definitive reason it may be on the rise,” Hittson said. “Normally jails aren’t the cleanest places, and staff isn’t going around wiping down everything, or infected people aren’t washing their hands.”   

Hittson did confirm the county health department is currently investigating the source of the inmate’s original infection.

“This can be deadly depending on how ill the person was when infected,” Hittson said. “Other people will be sick, then get over it and be fine. Our goal is to stop the spread of any communicable disease.”

Vaccines

Hittson said the county had originally ordered 400 doses of the Hep A vaccine, which is administered by a shot into the arm muscle like a flu vaccine.

Hittson said the county is working with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the vaccines are being delivered at no cost.

“Because of the winter storm, the state doubled our order,” Hittson said. “By the end of today (Friday) we will have 750 doses.”

Inmate 

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said neither the inmate’s age nor how long he had been in custody at the jail was unknown at this time.

He added the vaccines won’t be mandatory, but will be available to anyone who requests them.

“To my knowledge, the exposure to inmates and staff was minimal,” Brinker said. “No other inmates or staff are exhibiting symptoms.”

Brinker commended the jail and health department staff on their quick response to this incident.

“The quick action and exemplary response again demonstrates the professionalism and expertise of the employees of Franklin County in their service to the residents,” Brinker said.

Hepatitis A 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). 

Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection. 

Most adults with Hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice, that usually resolve within two months of infection; most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms or have an unrecognized infection.

Antibodies produced in response to Hepatitis A infection last for life and protect against reinfection. 

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated.