“I encourage First Nations people in the Cowichan Valley to make their health and the health of their families a priority by getting vaccinated against hepatitis A,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “We are working in partnership with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to offer immunizations to all First Nations people.”
Hepatitis A is a virus that affects the liver. The virus can be found in the bowel movements (stool) of infected people. It can spread through close personal contact, or contaminated food that has been handled by an infected person.
Symptoms of hepatitis A, include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. These symptoms are followed a few days later by the occurrence of dark-coloured urine, light-coloured stools, and jaundice (yellow eyes/skin). Anyone who develops these symptoms should stay home from school, work, daycare or other activities and avoid preparing food for others. They should also contact a physician, community health nurse or HealthLink BC by dialing 811.
Since October 2010, there have been 19 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in the Cowichan Valley. All cases have recovered or are recovering. Immunization has been offered to all close contacts of cases. It is not necessary to be a contact of a known case in order to be eligible for immunization with the hepatitis A vaccine. Broadening the availability of immunization should further reduce the chance of spread among people living in the Cowichan Valley.
Hepatitis A vaccine is not a routine childhood immunization in BC, and most people will not have received this vaccine in the past. Some people with high risk health conditions, for example, liver disease, or who have received travel vaccinations, or who were contacts of cases, may have been offered vaccination on an individual basis. Vaccination for Hepatitis B, a different disease, is offered routinely to infants and children, but does not provide protection against Hepatitis A.
“Hepatitis A vaccine is safe, and it is the most effective method of stopping further spread of this highly contagious illness,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano. “It is strongly recommended that First Nations people living in the Cowichan Valley receive this vaccine as soon as possible. Hepatitis A can be easily spread through contaminated food, so it is of particular importance for people who prepare food for others to get immunized.”
Immunizations are being offered at the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre, 5768 Allenby Road, on the following dates:
Monday: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 1p.m. – 4 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 1p.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 1 p.m. – 7p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 1p.m. – 4 p.m.
Individuals in need of transportation to the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre can call 250-746-6184.
Immunization is also available at the Margaret Moss Heath Centre, 675 Canada, Avenue, Duncan, BC.
More information about hepatitis A and the vaccine is available at: www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile33.stm.
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