LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hepatitis A continues to spread in Kentucky with 173 confirmed cases. The commonwealth is also reporting 123 hospitalizations and one death associated with hepatitis A, a virus that attacks the liver.

Local and state leaders spoke to the Metro Health and Education Committee on Wednesday afternoon about the outbreak. They said the vast majority of the hepatitis A cases are in Louisville among illegal drug users and the homeless. People who have chronic liver diseases, people who travel often and men who have sex with men are also at high-risk of getting hepatitis A.

Dr. Jonathan Ballard, the director of the division of Epidemiology and Health Planning for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told the committee Wednesday that they have seen a drastic increase in cases in the last few weeks, mainly affecting younger adults between the ages of 20 and 49.

Ballard said the CDC has provided extra vaccinations to help with the outbreak. At the department's request, the CDC has provided 7,620 vaccinations at the cost of $327,068.

The Metro Health Department has used 6,732 vaccines with the at-risk populations so far in Louisville. Department workers have logged 2,250 hours dealing with the epidemic. The overtime, extra equipment and supplies has cost the department $127,000.

Local leaders explained to the committee that they are also focusing on coordinating vaccinations for food handlers. And they are coordinating with Kentucky Derby Festival leaders to make sure there are more sanitation sites with running water and soap at big events like Thunder Over Louisville. Health department leaders hope these efforts, along with vaccinating people, will help stop the spread of hepatitis A.

Ballard said that when someone tests positive, they send that blood sample off to Frankfort and Atlanta for more testing.

"We also send that specimen on to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to do genetic testing of the virus to see if the virus is connected with other cases, both within Kentucky and throughout the country and world," Ballard said.

Health officials believe Kentucky's outbreak is connected to the outbreak in California, with 700 cases so far.

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