Health officials: 2 die from hepatitis A in Salt Lake County

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Two Utah people have died who were infected earlier this year with hepatitis A from an outbreak that started in San Diego, health officials said Tuesday.

One person died at the end of March and the other in January, the Salt Lake County Health Department said in a news release Tuesday. The department declined to release gender, age or names for the victims, citing health privacy laws.

The Utah outbreak began in August among Salt Lake City’s homeless population and illicit drug users with 212 cases identified around the state since last May, the news release said. That includes 148 in Salt Lake County.

The deceased were part of one or more of the groups most at risk in the outbreak: homeless people, drug users or people who have recently spent time in jail, health department spokesman Nicholas Rupp said.

It is the first death of a person infected with hepatitis A in Utah since 2011, Jeffrey Eason said, a viral hepatitis epidemiologist with the state health department.

The state usually has fewer than 10 cases per year, Eason said.

Health officials said in January that infected workers may have exposed customers at two Salt Lake City area restaurants and a convenience store. The two people who died were not the workers, Rupp said.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease. It can be spread through contaminated food and water or sexual contact.

The San Diego outbreak that killed 20 people and sickened hundreds more between November 2016 and October 2017 was the worst epidemic of its kind in the U.S. in 20 years.

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