Spike in hepatitis A cases described as ‘outbreak’ in Las Vegas

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Hepatitis A vaccination.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Health officials in Las Vegas are using the word “outbreak” to describe a sharp spike in hepatitis A cases reported mostly among homeless people and drug users.

The Southern Nevada Health District reported last week that from November to June it tallied 83 cases of the virus that causes liver damage and can lead to death.

That’s far more than the 58 cases reported in 2016, 2017 and 2018, combined.

The district said the trend in hepatitis A cases has been upward: six reported cases in 2016; 13 cases in 2017; and 39 in 2018.

The district says more than 80% of reported patients were people without a permanent place to live and 92% use drugs, whether intravenous or not.

The district has begun posting weekly outbreak updates on its website at www.SNHD.info/hep-a-control .

Public health emergencies have been declared in cities including Miami and Philadelphia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking outbreaks in 27 states.

An outbreak of hepatitis A among homeless people in San Diego killed 20 in 2017.

Hepatitis A is most often transmitted through consumption of water or food contaminated with feces.

Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, nausea and jaundice — a condition sometimes associated with liver disease that turns the skin and whites of the eyes yellow.

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