The Hamblen County Health Department will offer a fast track hepatitis A vaccination clinic on Thursday.

The department will be open for extended hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., while it offers the free clinic. The Tennessee Department of Health has identified an increase in hepatitis A cases across the state, many of which are tied to a large multi-state outbreak that began in early 2017.

TDH is working with local health officials and other partners to respond to the outbreak, according to its website.

A TDH report updated on June 28 indicates that during period Dec. 1, 2017 through June 28, 2019 the total number of Hepatitis A cases in the state reached 1,863, requiring 1,131 hospitalizations.

The East division of TDH, which includes Hamblen County, ranks second highest in the state, with 358 reported cases.

The pediatric hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children and has been required for kindergarten entry in Tennessee since 2011. The vaccine should be considered for any child who has not been vaccinated.

Those considered at high risk for hepatitis A infection in this outbreak include people who abuse drugs, people experiencing homelessness and men who have sex with men.

Notably, the outbreak has had a high hospitalization rate among those infected.

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It is spread from person to person, through contact with the feces (stool) of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly. Individuals can also get hepatitis A from food, water, or objects contaminated with HAV.

Children often do not have symptoms, but most adults do. Individuals can spread HAV without having symptoms.

The hepatitis A vaccine can prevent the disease; vaccines were recommended in the United States beginning in 1996. Since then, the number of cases reported each year in the U.S. has dropped from around 31,000 cases to fewer than 1,500 cases.

Children are routinely vaccinated between their first and second birthdays (12 through 23 months of age). Older children and adolescents can get the vaccine after 23 months. Adults who have not been vaccinated previously can also get the vaccine.

Those who are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common should get the vaccine.

For more information about other adults who should get the vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

TDH recommends that individuals always wash their hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers and before preparing meals for themselves and others.

Individuals who have a mild illness, such as a cold, can probably get the vaccine on Thursday. Those who are moderately or severely ill should consult their healthcare provider.

The Hamblen County Health Department is located at 331 W. Main St. in Morristown.