Department of Health: Hepatitis A is here. Get vaccinated.

It is not another health scare scam.

It’s a reality and it can be easily prevented.

For free.

Director of the Anderson County Health Department Art Miller made a public plea to the Anderson County Commission Tuesday night — to inform people to get a Hepatitis A (Hep A) vaccine.

The Health Department has been handing out flyers county-wide to get the word out.

The Hep A vaccine is available at the Anderson County Health Department. It is free.

That’s the simple message Miller was giving.

“Just come in,” he said. “We have plenty of the vaccine.”

There are two vaccine shots required — six months apart. The vaccine lasts for your lifetime, Miller said.

And now, Miller said, is the time to take advantage. The virus is here.

Miller told the commission the virus is systematically spreading in Tennessee — it first showed up in West Tennessee — but more and more cases are showing up in East Tennessee, specifically along the I-75 corridor from Ohio to Florida.

“It has been tracked in this direction,” Miller told the commission.

The I-75 corridor runs through Anderson County.

Miller said there “are cases in Anderson County,” but he would not reveal how many.

“That’s an identifier and we don’t want to .... Suggest anything about anybody,” he told the commission.

That’s becausethe symptoms of Hep A are about the same as the flu.

Until jaundice sets in and there is a yellow-cast to the skin.

But, Miller said, there have been (as of last Monday, Feb. 25) 800 cases of Hepatitis A in Tennessee; and 73 cases have been reported in East Tennessee.

Miller said of those 800 cases, 60-percent have been hospitalized and there has been three deaths. Miller urged the county to let all citizens know they should get the vaccine.

“We have been supplied with a lot of vaccine,” Miller told the commission.

Individuals are eligible for the vaccine. Miller told commission, as an example, the Health Department does not do “group plans,” such as the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department deputies, but if those deputies, as “individuals,” wanted to come in for a vaccine he would highly recommend doing so.

Miller said a person is most likely to get Hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that’s infected.

He said he could not stress, enough, the importance of getting the vaccin

Miller said cases have been linked to the homeless, IV drug users, and homosexual activity, but some cases have been linked to other sources.

“This is teatable,” Miller said. “But the public needs to know this vaccine is available for free.”

When asked by Commissioner Theresa Scott what the symptoms were, Miller outlines typical flu-like symptoms.

“You couldn’t tell the difference,” he said. “Until jaundice sets in.”