Pennsylvania officials declared an outbreak of hepatitis A in the state on Monday, citing 171 cases that have been reported since January 2018 in 36 counties, including Philadelphia.

The declaration makes Pennsylvania eligible for federal funds to purchase additional doses of a vaccine against the liver disease, whose symptoms can include vomiting and jaundice. The vaccine would be targeted at groups considered at high risk of exposure to the virus: those who inject illicit drugs, the homeless, and men who have sex with men.

The announcement, made by Secretary of Health Rachel Levine in consultation with the state epidemiologist, Sharon Watkins, was not prompted by a specific number of cases, only by the fact that cases are on the upswing.

Of the 171 cases since January 2018, more than 60 have been identified since January of this year, said Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health. Outbreaks have been declared in 22 other states, some of which have been hit much harder. More than 2,000 cases have been reported in both Ohio and West Virginia.


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