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State health department says Arizona is experiencing hepatitis A outbreak

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services says Arizona is experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A.

“We’ve seen over 200 cases of the disease throughout Arizona, primarily in Pima and Maricopa counties,” assistant director Jessica Rigler told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

The department began seeing cases reported in November 2018, starting in Pima County, she said. Fifty-five cases have been reported in Maricopa County since the beginning of 2019.

The majority of people infected with hepatitis A are homeless people and drug users, she said.

Rigler said vaccination and frequent hand washing can help prevent the disease, which cannot be cured. Doctors can only treat the symptoms while the disease runs its course.

“One of the important things to stopping a hepatitis A outbreak is making sure that individuals who are vulnerable receive hepatitis A vaccine,” Rigler said.

“And our local public health departments have been working hard to vaccinate individuals … to try and prevent additional cases of disease.”

She said symptoms include sudden fever, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine and yellowing eyes.

“It’s usually spread through the fecal-oral route, which means that if someone ingests hepatitis A virus from an object or food or drink that’s contaminated by undetectable amounts of stool from an infected person, they could become sick,” she said.

Rigler said no deaths have been associated with the current outbreak, but a “significant” number of people have been hospitalized.

The AZDHS recommends that people get vaccinated, especially those experiencing homelessness and children over a year old.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report. 

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