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Minnesota declares outbreak of hepatitis A

Updated: August 08, 2019 06:41 PM

Minnesota health officials say there's an outbreak in cases of hepatitis A, a virus that can cause severe liver damage.

Twenty-three cases have been identified with 13 patients requiring hospitalization for the virus, which is spread by unsanitary conditions. The state Department of Health is advocating for broader vaccination efforts in high-risk areas, such as jails and homeless shelters.

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The department's infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann, says nine counties are reporting recent cases, including Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Mille Lacs, Pine, St. Louis and Washington. 

"We have been working with our public health partners to respond to individual cases and prevent future cases," Ehresmann said in a statement. "Declaring an outbreak is a significant step because it allows us to access additional resources to fight the outbreak."

She added, "we're hoping we can get ahead of it in ways other states that didn't have that head start."

While anyone who is not vaccinated can contract hepatitis A, Ehresmann said people who are homeless or who use drugs are at higher risk, especially if they do not have access to proper sanitation.



Ehresmann noted vaccine use is targeting adults since the childhood vaccines may not be enough to protect against the disease.

"It's included in the recommended schedule for children, it's only been included since 2006— that's why we are focusing on the adult population because they would not have neccesarily been protected with their childhood vaccines," she said.

No cases have been detected in Ramsey County. The county has a syringe exchange program and starting in April of this year, began educating individuals coming in about hepatitis A and offering them vaccine, according to Ramsey County Health.

In the last three years, there have been 23,000 cases of hepatitis nationally, with 233 deaths. CLICK HERE to get more information on the disease from the CDC. 


Other helpful links: (courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Health


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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