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Tucson, Metro Phoenix Hit With Hepatitis A Outbreak

About 240 Arizonans have been diagnosed with hepatitis A in 2019 — a drastic surge from the five-year average of 10 cases.

Pima and Maricopa counties have been hardest hit, said Jessica Rigler, associate director of public health preparedness for the state.

“We’ve been working to insure that there are vaccinations available for individuals who have the possibility to be affected by this outbreak,” Rigler said.

The outbreak is mainly affecting the homeless population and those who use illicit drugs. The disease can be spread via contaminated food, water, towels, cigarettes and drug paraphernalia.

The hepatitis A vaccination has been recommended for children since the mid-1990s.

“So if you’re an adult — unless you've traveled internationally — it's possible that you’ve not been vaccinated for hepatitis A,” she said.

About 80 percent of Arizonans linked to this outbreak have had to be hospitalized, though no deaths have yet been connected to the liver disease.

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Claire Caulfield first joined KJZZ as an intern in 2015 and now wakes up before the sun to produce and report for Morning Edition. She graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2017 and covered education policy in the nation's capital, election night in New York City and Native American issues for Cronkite News/ Arizona PBS. Before joining the Morning Edition team, she also worked on a documentary about rap music in the deep South and directed a film on drinking-water quality in the United States.On the weekends, you can find Claire flying her photography drone or working her way through the Pulitzer Prize book list.