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May 21, 2019

Philly among hardest hit in statewide hepatitis A outbreak

Pennsylvania Department of Health declared the outbreak on Monday

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hepatitis A outbreak Pennsylvania Photo courtesy/Pennsylvania Department of Health

The health department's map shows that both Philadelphia and Allegheny counties are home to between 31 and 50 cases each.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Monday an outbreak of hepatitis A — and Philadelphia is one of the hardest-hit cases.

According to health officials, 171 cases have been reported in 36 Pennsylvania counties since January 2018. Pittsburgh, Ohio and West Virginia also have seen an increase in cases.

“It’s hard to know for sure why we are experiencing an outbreak of hepatitis A,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, said. “We do know that the commonwealth has seen an increase of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV because of the opioid epidemic.”

RELATED READ: Hep A infections surging in U.S. despite availability of effective vaccine

According to the Department of Health, the hepatitis A virus is spread by consuming something food contaminated with the feces of a person infected with hepatitis A. This often occurs in the food service setting when a hepatitis A-positive cook doesn't wash their hands properly.

But those most at-risk of contracting the virus include homeless individuals, men who have sex with men and those who inject drugs.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice, dark urine, light-colored stools, stomach pains and loss of appetite, according to the health department.

This is a vaccine-preventable illness, the Department of Health reminds residents. If you are not yet vaccinated, find a clinic near you here

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