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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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June 30, 2018

Miller says vaccination is best way to prevent  Hep-A 


The deadly hepatitis A outbreak in Louisville and other parts of Kentucky is now the worst in the nation.

And the crisis hasn't crested.

Statewide, at least 969 people have contracted the liver disease, state health officials confirmed Wednesday.

"It's the worst on record across the nation and in Kentucky," said Dr. Jeff Howard, Kentucky Commissioner of Public Health.

Kentucky's confirmed cases have surpassed those in Michigan, which had 846 reported cases as of June 20, according to data from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kentucky's current outbreak already has targeted four times more victims than the state's last epidemic in 1988. Only one died then.

Lawrence County, ky. Health Department director Debbie Miller updated the status of the disease locally on Friday.

"It is disconcerting, but it is my understanding that there has not been a single case in the state where someone contracted Hepatitis A from a foodservice worker. The majority of those affected have been drug users," Miller said in a statement. "Lawrence County has 4 confirmed cases."

Vaccinations locally?

Miller continued..."The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated and most insurance plans cover that cost. I would encourage people to call their insurance provider to check on coverage," she said. "The (LC) Health Department and, I believe Rite Aid and Walmart locally, have vaccine available. We go through it pretty quickly here at the Health Department so call first to make sure we have it in stock. Also, be sure to use good hand washing techniques with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is not effective."


Q & A on hepatitis A: What you should know about hepatitis A and the outbreak in Louisville

The current crisis has killed six. Three of those deaths were in Louisville.

Louisville health officials confirmed 482 cases, said Dave Langdon, spokesman for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. That's the worst outbreak here in decades, he said. He couldn't confirm if it's the worst outbreak in the city's history.

"Sharing a home, a cigarette, marijuana joint, a drink, or sex with someone who has the virus puts you at high risk," according an advisory on the city's website.

The eight other states that have reported outbreaks include: Indiana, California, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, Utah and West Virginia, CDC spokeswoman Donnica Smalls said.

The virus was first detected in Louisville last fall and mostly impacts drug users and adults who are homeless or people who work with them. It can be spread through contact with objects, surfaces, food or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.

So why get vaccinated?

About 10 percent of Louisville's victims weren't in a high-risk category.

One example is Angela Glotzbach, a medical sales rep who was among Louisville's earliest victims. She was baffled by her diagnosis. She described missing work for three months due to virus symptoms that felt "1,000 times worse than the flu."

Dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea sent her to the hospital three times and she suffered tremors, joint and back pain, fatigue and trouble forming sentences.

'1,000 times worse than flu': A Louisville firefighter didn't miss a day of work in 10 years until he got hepatitis A from a sandwich

Glotzbach spoke with a local epidemiologist in November, when there were just 20 local victims.

She was diagnosed in October but believes she contracted the disease in late August or early September from one of the many restaurants she frequents.

Louisville and Kentucky health officials say they haven't found one confirmed case linked to a patron eating at a restaurant despite some restaurant workers contracting the virus. Regardless, many restaurant workers have been vaccinated as a precaution.

"The risk of contamination is extremely low" if contaminated food-handlers wash their hands or wear gloves, Howard said.

Symptoms can take one to two weeks — even up to seven weeks — to surface and include darker urine, lighter stools, flu-like symptoms and yellowing of the eyes and skin.

CDC epidemiologists have been studying Kentucky's outbreak for months, with trips and calls to Louisville.

"This is occurring in many, many states," Howard said, with Louisville considered one of the ground zeroes. "Most of our cases are linked to the San Diego-Utah outbreak."

He also said there have been cases in Kentucky of the same strain as some, but not all, of the cases in Indiana as well as cases in the Detroit, Michigan, area and Arkansas.

Kentucky's drug epidemic has played a role in fueling the hepatitis A outbreak, with more than half of the state's cases linked to illicit drug use.

Less than one percent of the Kentucky cases have been fatal, considered a low rate, Howard said.

That's not simply luck.

Kentucky health officials identified the outbreak early and developed a plan of attack that included securing vaccines, notifying the public and the CDC and vaccinating people at homeless shelters and camps, needle exchange sites and at jails.

Also, 59 percent of the victims in Kentucky have been hospitalized with acute abdominal pain, jaundice and other symptoms — likely preventing more deaths, Howard said.

The 11 other counties reporting five or more cases are: Ballard, Grayson, Ohio, Rowan, Shelby, Whitley, Fayette, Powell, Lincoln, Grant and Bourbon. State health officials are working to get them funding for vaccines and to coordinate with local jails and agencies providing services to people who are homeless or abusing drugs. The other deaths were in Ballard, Meade and Greenup counties.

Rui Zhao, communicable disease supervisor for Louisville Metro's health department, said 63 percent of Jefferson County's victims reported illicit drug use, but that percentage is likely higher.

"There's a lot of fear they will get in trouble. But if they tell us about drug use, we don't share that information with law enforcement," he said.

Zhao also said people can be hesitant to share personal details such as sexual encounters between men, which is a risk factor.

He cautioned residents who don't have these risk factors against feeling immune because the virus is "indiscriminate."

Langdon said he's optimistic that Hep A cases are beginning to drop in Louisville. "However, the community shouldn’t be falsely secure. It can start to trend up again."

Some residents may wonder if they had the vaccine as a child and didn't know it.

Dr. Paul Schulz, infectious diseases specialist and system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare, said that's unlikely unless they traveled abroad or were in a high-risk population. That's because the vaccine wasn't available until 1995 and wasn't added to the child immunization schedule until 1999, he said.

Only a small number of children have contracted the virus in Kentucky and all survived, Howard said.

Public schools across Kentucky are requiring students to get the vaccine before starting school this year.

Some people may have had very mild symptoms and not have known they were suffering from hepatitis A, Schultz said. Symptoms tend to be much more severe for adults.

A primary care provider or infectious disease specialist can perform a simple blood test to see if someone has been vaccinated or has immunity, the doctor said.

But if you unknowingly got the vaccine twice, it won't harm you, said Lori Caloia, medical director for the health department.

Kroger and Walgreen pharmacies are among those offering the vaccine, with most insurance plans covering the cost.

Nearly 77,000 people have gotten the shot in Jefferson County.

Passport Health Plan members don't have to get prior authorization and more than 20,000 have gotten the shot across Kentucky this year at pharmacies or from their healthcare providers, spokesman Michael Rabkin said.

Concerns that there could soon be a vaccine shortage are unfounded, Howard said. He and Dr. Sarah Moyer, Louisville's health director, teamed to secure more of the vaccine from Merck — and at a discount.

Louisville's health department put together an online resource page at — search for "hepatitis" — that lists many places offering the shot. The first shot is up to 95 percent effective and a second shot is recommended after six months.

When Louisville suffered its last outbreak in 1988, more than 200 victims contracted the virus, including Rick Hancock, then a Louisville firefighter. Contaminated lettuce on a ham sandwich from a downtown lunch spot that is no longer open caused him to miss three months of work.

"I can remember laying in there in my bed when I was sickest, thinking, 'Gosh, I'm glad I don't have a gun in this house,' " he said.

It took three more months of fatigue before he felt semi-normal.

He urges everyone to get the shot, a measure of protection that could have saved him a lot of suffering.


By Beth Warren
Louisville Courier Journal

{ Editor Mark Grayson contributed to this story.}




June 27, 2018

Signed, blank checks, credit cards belonging to the home’s owner used to buy clothes, jewelry and other items for themselves

The Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department has charged two employees of a children’s home with forcing a special needs person to give them signed, blank checks, and using credit cards belonging to the home’s owner to buy clothes, jewelry and other items.

Halcomb and DixonHalcomb and DixonPolice in Clay City arrested the two after they were entered into the National Crime Information Computer system.

Ashley Renee Holcomb, 34, of Linefork, a housekeeper at the Sonshine Children’s Center, and William G. Dixon Jr., 35, of Cowan, a groundskeeper, are facing multiple charges of theft, robbery and elder exploitation.

Capt. Barry Engle said Mary Bennett, 76, of Linefork, who has run the foster home at Linefork for nearly 30 years and has fostered more than 100 children, called the sheriff ’s department June 11 to report that Holcomb and Dixon had obtained several checks, forged them, and cashed them at stores in and around Whitesburg.

The couple had also made unauthorized purchases at Frazier’s Farmers Supply, obtained a MoneyGram, and made purchases of jewelry, clothing, makeup and other items when they were supposed to be shopping for the home.

Engle said it appeared the two used threats and coercion to force Bennett’s 18-year-old daughter Elizabeth to sign the checks. They were entrusted with the credit card to make grocery and household purchases for the home, Engle said, and made other purchases without permission. He said credit card bills are still coming in, so the total of the purchases is unknown. He said the total stolen could amount to nearly $10,000.

“I’ve made a lot of arrests and put a lot of people in jail in my career, but these are some of the most satisfying,” Engle said.

Engle said the two were entered in the NCIC Wanted Persons Database on June 12, and were caught in Clay City on June 20. They have now been returned to the Letcher County Jail charged with second-degree robbery, theft, firstdegree forgery, possession of a forged instrument, elder exploitation and identity theft. The two are being held in the Letcher County Jail on bonds of $25,000 each and home incarceration.

--The Mountain Eagle



June 27, 2018

Court will give sheriff $75,000 to run on until December;


MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. -- Martin County Fiscal Court members voted to cut the sheriff's department budget by $80,000 for the 2018-19 fiscal year at a meeting last night (Tuesday).

Judge-executive Kelly Callaham said there is no way around the cuts. "We're barely making it now and we just can't afford this,"Judge-executive Kelly Callaham said there is no way around the cuts. "We're barely making it now and we just can't afford this,"Judge-Executive Kelly Callaham said there is no way around the cuts. "We're barely making it now and we just can't afford this," explained Callaham.

Sheriff John Kirk, who has drawn statewide praise for his war on drugs, said services will have to be cut back for his office.

He said patrols and other services will have to be cut-back starting July 1st. "We're going to have to tighten down really tight in order to be able to overcome the 80,000," Kirk told

Sheriff Kirk says he is thankful for his unpaid deputies. "If it wasn't for my volunteer deputies then I could not do what I do," explained Kirk.

To show support for the sheriff's department, citizens filled the room's seats as the meeting began.


Many citizens say they are not happy about the decision.

MARTIN CO. FISCAL COURT - To show support for the sheriff's department, citizens filled the room's seats as the meeting began.MARTIN CO. FISCAL COURT - To show support for the sheriff's department, citizens filled the room's seats as the meeting began.


Click pic for video


BarbiAnn Maynard said she lives on the edge of the county. She fears this will add minutes to response time. "Response time for me is already unreal slow but them cutting it is going to make it even worse," said Maynard.

People who sat in on the meeting said they feel that the cuts show the fiscal court does not care about the citizens of Martin County.

Martin Co. Sheriff John Kirk said it will take a lot of belt tightening to make ends meet and some services and patrols will have to be scaled back.Martin Co. Sheriff John Kirk said it will take a lot of belt tightening to make ends meet and some services and patrols will have to be scaled back."There was a lot of other areas that are not benefiting the county that should have first been on the chopping block," said Maynard. Judge Callaham said if he could have cut from another department, he would have done so. "We're going to look at it more to see if there are other ways we can help him," said Callaham.

Judge Callaham has spent 21 years serving the county as Judge Executive. He says this was not an easy decision for his board members. "I've had 5 fiscal courts and this group here is one of the most caring fiscal courts I've ever had," explained Judge Callaham.

Moving forward, the fiscal court will give the department pre-budgeted $75,000 to run on until December. The sheriff's department will also be applying for a $30,000 state grant along with more police grants.

If you would like to donate to the sheriff's department, you can call 606-298-2828.