No, you won’t get hepatitis A from Lawrence’s drinking water

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The concentration of hepatitis A in Lawrence’s wastewater has been on the rise, but the drinking water is clean and safe, according to the city.

Wastewater — aka sewage — is processed through the city’s water treatment plants. Drinking water and tap water have been treated.

The City of Lawrence has received a number of questions about this lately, according to a news release Thursday evening.

WastewaterSCAN, a national wastewater monitoring system based at Stanford University in partnership with Emory University, recently noted an increase in the concentration of hepatitis A virus (HAV) detected in the wastewater processed at the Lawrence Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Facility beginning in early January,” according to the release.

The city joined the nationwide initiative to detect wastewater levels of infectious diseases — including COVID-19, monkeypox, influenza A and RSV — in 2022.

Levels of COVID-19 in wastewater were monitored as indicators of the prevalence of the illness in the community during the height of the pandemic; however, that did not indicate that people would get COVID-19 from drinking water.

Douglas County is not experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, but the wastewater detection may indicate that there is transmission within the community, according to the release.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health officials are encouraging health care providers to be aware of symptoms of hepatitis and to vaccinate people who are at risk of contracting the virus.

People who use drugs; people who are or recently have been incarcerated; people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing; those who are at risk of severe disease from infection, such as people who have chronic liver disease; and people who provide care for those listed or older people should consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A, according to the release.

Vaccines are available at the health department. Call 785-843-0721 to make an appointment.

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