WATCH LIVE: Give Humane Society animals Hope for the Holidays – Joins us from 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Hepatitis A outbreak growing in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Department of Health is ramping up efforts to stop the spread of Hepatitis A.

Health leaders have been tracking cases from May 1 to Nov. 27, and the results are alarming.

There have been 87 cases.  60 percent have required hospitalization.

“In a normal year, we would have 4 hepatitis A cases in Salt Lake County, so a significant increase this year,” said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County health department.

Of the 87 cases, the majority have been homeless individuals or use illicit drug users.

“We’ve been out working with the homeless population on foot, visiting them where ever they might be in downtown SL, on the streets, along the Jordan River, trying to find the individuals and encourage them to be vaccinated,” said Edwards.

Edwards said the outbreak is linked to others popping up in places such as Michigan and California.

“There are deaths associated with Hepatitis A.  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," Edwards said.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. It’s spread through fecal matter that gets into food or drink.

“Everybody thinks of jaundice, but there’s also low-grade fever, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, pain on right side below the ribs, fatigue,” said Edwards.

Hepatitis A can be fatal if a patient has other infections such as Hepatitis B or C. That’s why health leaders recommend vaccination as your best line of defense against the illness.

They add that it is 100 percent preventable. The key is to wash your hands thoroughly.

“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,” said Jeffrey Eason, viral Hepatitis epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health.

For more information about Hepatitis A, click here:

http://health.utah.gov/hepatitisa