Floyd County Health Department  Director Thursa Sloan confirmed that a Floyd County Detention Center inmate tested positive for hepatitis A last week. 

According to a statement released Monday, a nurse at the jail reported a “probable” hepatitis A case on Thursday and it was confirmed by lab results and the inmate’s clinical signs and symptoms the following day. 

Sloan said two other inmates with suspected hepatitis A cases were isolated from the general population at the jail, but those cases had not been confirmed prior to print deadline. Sloan commended jail staff for isolating the inmates from the general population to prevent spread of hepatitis A. 

Jailer Stuart “Bear” Halbert could not be reached for comment. 

On Monday, health department staff  administered hepatitis A vaccinations to 125 inmates and employees, Sloan said, noting that it marked the second time that the health department vaccinated employees there, but the first time inmates were vaccinated.

Those vaccinations were funded through a $40,000 grant the health department received from the state to vaccinate people who don’t have health insurance. 

The Kentucky Department for Public Health reported Friday that Floyd County has had 36 “probable” and “suspected” cases of hepatitis A since August 2017, four more than reported the week prior. That number reflects only the total number of cases, however, as of Sept. 29. 

Sloan, using more recent data, said there have been more than 40 hepatitis A cases in the county, and she expects that number to grow. She said on Tuesday that six or seven cases have been reported since Oct. 1.  

“It’s going to increase here because we are a high-risk county, period,” Sloan said. “The way drugs are in this county, everybody should get that hepatitis A shot.”

She said the department is also working closely with Floyd County Schools to ensure that all students are vaccinated for hepatitis A, as required by a new law this year. The department is scheduling dates to offer vaccines for students who still need them, a move that came after officials in Perry County confirmed a student there was diagnosed with hepatitis A last week. 

District health Coordinator Annette Harris-Ward could not be reached for comment, but Sloan said the school district reported that more than 300 kids in all schools still have not received their required vaccinations for hepatitis A.  

When asked whether Floyd County residents should be concerned about hepatitis A, Sloan said, “We’re a high-risk county,” she said. “Hand washing is your first line of defense, but we’re obviously not doing a good job with that. When I saw the first case of hepatitis A in one of the schools in another county, I thought, ‘Oh, boy. We are a time bomb.’” 

The health department encourages parents to ensure their children are vaccinated, as required, and that students and staff are properly washing their hands. 

“Schools and food service areas should be promoting and monitoring students and employees for poor hand-washing practices,” the health department said in a press release. “There should be increased emphasis on this practice by all schools and by all food services in the community. The health department will be increasing monitoring to ensure that hand-washing supplies are available and signage is out to remind folks to wash their hands.” 

Sloan joined other health department officials, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton and Floyd County Judge-Executive Ben Hale at a press conference on July 11, announcing a new initiative to ensure that Floyd County food handlers and restaurants and businesses receive hepatitis A vaccinations. 

Through the initiative, businesses ensure that food handlers are vaccinated for hepatitis A and, in turn, it receives a sticker that identifies it as having all food handlers vaccinated. 

At the time of that announcement, there were four reported hepatitis A cases in the county and 964 cases in the state, and hepatitis A had caused the deaths of six people in Kentucky.

The state reported Friday that as of Sept. 29, 1,943 suspected and probable cases of hepatitis A have been reported in 89 counties since the outbreak started last August, and 14 deaths have been attributed to it. 

According to the state’s weekly report, more than 1,000 cases statewide occurred with people who reported illicit drug use and 189 cases were reported in homeless residents who used illicit drugs. The state reported that 357 people had no outbreak-related risk factors when they contracted the hepatitis A, the report says.

For more information, call the health department at (606) 886-2788.

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