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Minnesota health officials declare hepatitis A outbreak

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The Minnesota Health Department on Thursday declared an outbreak of hepatitis A and urged vaccinations for those at high risk for the disease, including drug users and people recently incarcerated.

The outbreak covers nearly two-dozen cases in nine counties, the agency said in a statement. The cases first surfaced in Minnesota in May. Initially, they were clustered in the east-central part of the state, but health officials said additional cases have popped up in other parts of Minnesota.

“We have been working with our public health partners to respond to individual cases and prevent future cases,” said Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director. “Declaring an outbreak is a significant step because it allows us to access additional resources to fight the outbreak.”

Hepatitis A is found in the stools of infected people and is usually spread by contaminated hands.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, dark urine and jaundice. Most people recover within a few weeks or months, but in rare cases the virus can cause fatal liver damage.

Similar outbreaks of hepatitis A have occurred nationally in recent years. There have been more than 23,600 cases in 29 states, according to the department.