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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.

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer from 2015 to 2019.