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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hepatitis A Sickens 316 in Nizhny

A total of 316 people were hospitalized Tuesday with hepatitis A in Nizhny Novgorod, the country's third-largest city, and local health officials were preparing to treat hundreds more as they struggled to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.

Newly appointed Nizhny Novgorod Governor Valery Shantsev said the situation was under his personal control.

"The hospitals are being reorganized [to admit new patients]," Shantsev said on NTV television. "The disease is viral. So far, it is unclear what caused it, but the main prevention measure is not to allow contact" with those who are ill.

Shantsev, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's longtime deputy, was appointed governor by President Vladimir Putin last month.

Local health officials first detected a growth in hepatitis A cases on Sept. 5, and most of the cases were diagnosed over the past five days, said the region's chief doctor, Yevgeny Petrov, Interfax reported.

Petrov said that of the 316 registered cases, 31 were children under 14 and 196 were residents of the Sormovksy district in the Volga River city.

Patients were being treated at three city hospitals that specialize in infectious diseases, and health officials were readying 830 beds in other hospitals and clinics in anticipation that many more people would fall ill. Officials predicted that the outbreak would spread for several weeks before starting to subside, given that the disease has an incubation period of up to 45 days.

Meanwhile, epidemic specialists were trying to determine the source of the outbreak, examining local outdoor food markets, water and sewage systems and water purification facilities.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by infected food or water. It is a milder form of the virus, is treatable and can be prevented by vaccination.

The Nizhny Novgorod outbreak is the second hepatitis A epidemic this year in the country. In June, nearly 600 people in the Tver region town of Rzhev were diagnosed with the disease. Tainted beverages from the local Rzhevpivo brewery were blamed for the outbreak.