Officials: Kentucky's hepatitis A outbreak now worst in US

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The hepatitis A outbreak in Louisville and other parts of Kentucky is now the worst in the country.

The Courier Journal reports state health officials confirmed Wednesday at least 969 people have contracted the liver disease. State Public Health department Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard says the outbreak is the worst on record across the nation and in Kentucky.

Three of the outbreak's six deaths were in Louisville. Louisville Metro Public Health department spokesman Dave Langdon says officials confirmed 482 cases.

The virus was first detected in Louisville last fall and can be spread through contact with surfaces, food or drinks contaminated by feces from an infected person.

The disease mostly affects drug users and homeless people, and officials are working to get funding for vaccines and coordinate with local agencies.

"We're fortunate in that we've had only four cases," Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, commissioner of health for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Dept., said. "Given what's happening in the rest of the state we can probably expect more in the coming weeks and months."

He recommends good hand washing.

"Right now we're encouraging adults to be vaccinated, to ask their provider about vaccination. Most adults didn't have the opportunity to be vaccinated as children because the vaccine wasn't available when they were children."