|Medical Services ● Disease Control|
Hepatitis C Outbreak Investigation in Ward County
The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is investigating a cluster of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) cases in Ward County. As of November 19, 2013, there have been 40 cases identified in this outbreak. Laboratory analyses indicate that the virus from the 40 cases is genetically-linked, suggesting a common source of infection.
At the start of this investigation, three acute cases were diagnosed within a few months in the first quarter of 2013 within the same geographic area. Reporting of clusters of acute HCV cases is unusual in North Dakota. The outbreak investigation seeks to ascertain whether a connection exists among these cases. At this time, a source has yet to be identified.
Health officials are currently working in conjunction with community health-care partners to identify how these cases may have been exposed and whether there is a common source. Any possible associations among identified cases will be evaluated. Individuals who may have exposures or events in common with identified cases may also be screened for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C can lead to lifelong infection and can cause serious liver damage (e.g., cirrhosis or liver cancer) and death. About 80 percent of individuals infected with HCV have mild or no symptoms initially. Symptoms may include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, dark urine or jaundice. Some people recover fully, but 55 percent to 85 percent of infected individuals develop chronic infection.
Hepatitis C is spread primarily through direct exposure to blood or blood products from an infected person. Risk factors include:
As the investigation progresses, the NDDoH will release updates through media outlets and through the following website: www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Hepatitis/HCVOutbreak2013.htm.
For more HCV information, please visit the NDDoH viral hepatitis website at www.ndhealth.gov/disease/Hepatitis/. Additional HCV information is also available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/c/.
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