The Utah Department of Health is grappling with a growing hepatitis A outbreak that has reached 95 cases, with over 60 percent of patients requiring hospitalization. The majority of cases involve homeless individuals and illicit drug users, with officials citing links to the outbreaks in Arizona and California, Fox 13 Now reported.
“We’ve been out working with the homeless population on foot, visiting them wherever they might be in downtown Salt Lake on the streets, along the Jordan River, trying to find the individuals and encourage them to be vaccinated,” Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County health department told Fox 13 Now.
Officials have counted 95 cases so far, which is a sharp increase from the four cases that the area sees each year.
“There are deaths associated with Hepatitis A,” Edwards told Fox 13 Now. “San Diego is also experiencing an outbreak there, and they’ve had a number of deaths there. We’re fortunate that at this point, we have not had a death with this outbreak.”
Hepatitis A is a preventable, contagious disease that can be spread through fecal matter or contaminated food or drink. It can cause fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice, or even death in severe cases.
“Anytime you’re going to be eating, preparing food for someone else, after you use the restroom, make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds under warm water using soap,” Jeffrey Eason, viral Hepatitis epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health, told Fox 13 Now.