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First Indiana Hepatitis A Outbreak Death Reported

Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News
The state recently obtained additional Hepatitis A vaccines to help at-risk counties vaccinate certain populations

The state says it’s confirmed the first death in Indiana associated with a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak.

The Indiana State Department of Health isn’t releasing any more information about the death, citing privacy laws.

Hepatitis A is a highly-contagious liver disease that can be spread through fecal-oral means. Someone can contract the virus through contact with an infected person or contaminated food.

While Indiana typically sees about 20 cases a year, there are 214 hepatitis A cases in the state associated with the outbreak.Seven counties are affected so far.

Deputy Health Commissioner Pam Pontones says they’re working closely with local health departments to raise awareness about the risks.

“So what we are trying very diligently to do is to educate the public, restaurants, jails, groups that serve at-risk populations, about this outbreak and ways to prevent the disease,” she said.

The state has allocated an additional $1 million in state and federal funding to supply local health departments with hepatitis A vaccines to use on at-risk populations.

That includes intravenous drug users, those experiencing homelessness, people who are incarcerated and men who have sex with men.

The state says more than 70 percent of the Hoosiers diagnosed with the virus reported drug use, while nearly 20 percent said they experienced homelessness.

A state law that went into effect in 2014 means Indiana children must receive a hepatitis A vaccine before entering school.