Hepatitis A causes jail concerns

It appears a hepatitis A outbreak that had been contained largely to southern West Virginia may be moving northward, striking inmates at a regional jail in Doddridge County. State officials are right to move decisively to keep inmates safe.

For several months, a dramatic upsurge in hepatitis A cases has been seen in the Mountain State. As of a few days ago, 1,166 people had been reported as coming down with the disease. Two have died.

But until the past few days, concern had been centered on southern counties. Two, Kanawha and Putnam, were responsible for nearly 800 hepatitis A cases.

Then, on Friday, it was learned at least two, possibly six, inmates at the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County had been stricken. Public health workers moved quickly to vaccinate the approximately 850 inmates at the jail.

Inmates also have been vaccinated at some other regional jails, in Cabell, Kanawha and Logan counties. One in Raleigh County also was being considered for the preventive measure.

People who are incarcerated, including those with drug abuse problems, are more susceptible than the general population to hepatitis A.

Roughly half the inmates in the state’s regional jails have been vaccinated against the disease. State officials should expand the campaign to cover all 10 local corrections facilities.

Given the regular turnover in populations at regional jails, taking that step would safeguard not just prisoners and staff, but also other West Virginians who might come in contact with former inmates released from the jail.