(Patch)  — Federal health officials are sounding the alarm about a hepatitis A outbreak affecting homeless people and injection drug-users across a dozen states. And they’re saying its likely linked to the opioid scourge devastating communities nationwide.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The highly contagious viral disease is typically spread when someone unknowingly ingests food or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of contaminated feces from the infected person. This is sometimes seen in the food industry and is one reason that proper hygiene — specifically, hand-washing — is of vital importance.

“Transmission is predominantly by direct person-to-person contact, related to crowding and poor hygiene,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease is preventable with proper vaccination, though. As such, America’s hepatitis A rates plummeted once vaccinations became widely available in 1996.

But that trend is reversing, the CDC said, rand an increase in the number of community-wide hepatitis A outbreaks has increased in a dozen states — California, Utah, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

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