March 27, 2019 Blog, Press Release

Bevin Downplays Worst Hepatitis A Outbreak in Nation, Spreads Myths About Disease

On Wednesday, during a radio interview with WKDZ, Gov. Matt Bevin downplayed Kentucky’s Hepatitis A outbreak saying the disease has only affected “dozens” instead of thousands.

Here are the governor’s full comments:

“Yes, yes, in fact, I just signed a bill, so we’re going to be investing money in allowing some of our firefighters and first responders and others to be able to get the vaccine paid for, the Hep A vaccine, which was just very wise for them to get. I mean, this is a dangerous disease. It has popped up. We’ve had dozens of people who’ve been affected. And while it’s not an epidemic, we certainly don’t want it to become one. And those that are exposed to it, it has a lot to do with drug use, of course, is how it often begins. But whether it’s Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, C, what have you, people are wise to get themselves vaccinated against this and we’re doing our part to make sure our first responders have that as well.”

Nearly one hour before the interview, the Courier Journal reported 4,381 people have been affected by the disease since the state declared it to be in “outbreak” stage in November 2017. More than one year later the death toll stands at 52 and growing.

Bevin also suggested that “drug use” is the primary cause of contracting the disease, which is a widespread and dangerous myth about Hepatitis A. While individuals who are homeless or engage in illicit drug use are vulnerable to contracting the disease, the suggestion that “drug use…is often how it begins” is inaccurate information that could put the public at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control Hepatitis A is “usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.”

“Once again, Governor Bevin’s ignorance about basic public health policy is creating confusion and putting people at risk. We’re in the middle of the worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in the country and Governor Bevin doesn’t appear to understand how many people have been affected. That’s alarming, to say the least,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Spokesperson, Marisa McNee. “I’m glad the Governor finally acknowledged that vaccinations are important; it would be helpful if he stopped spreading dangerous myths about how the disease is contracted and get focused on ending the outbreak.”

You can listen to the full radio interview here (Hepatitis A remarks begin around 6:30 mark)