March 10 (UPI) -- Chinese authorities have confirmed an outbreak of hepatitis A in northeastern China, in the coastal city of Dalian and in the border city of Dandong, not far from North Korea.
Chinese news service Jiemian News reported Tuesday the cities have witnessed a rise in hepatitis A cases, amid an ongoing state effort to contain the new strain of coronavirus.
Chinese health authorities confirmed the latest epidemic after people began to raise concerns about a hepatitis A outbreak on social media. Authorities also described the outbreak as "scattered," or "sporadic," indicating the cases were small in number, while not disclosing statistics.
"Rumors about people getting hepatitis A from eating undercooked seafood have been going around the city for 10 days," said Zhao Dafu, a resident of Dandong, according to state tabloid Global Times. Zhao also said the hepatitis reports are adding to public anxiety; China has yet to fully contain COVID-19.
Jinzhou, a pharmaceutical company near Dalian, informed its employees of the hepatitis A outbreak in the Chinese cities, in what may have been the first statement regarding the disease.
"We must find preventions for hepatitis A in addition to the new strain of coronavirus," the company in a statement that later went viral on Chinese social media, according to Jiemian News.
Liaoning Province's health committee said Monday on its homepage hepatitis A is a "small epidemic" that comes and goes "every three to five years."
"Last year hepatitis A spread across China and increased by some degree in Liaoning Province," the committee said.
The committee also said infections usually occur after consuming shellfish and other seafood containing the hepatitis A virus. The committee urged the public to visit a hospital if they experience symptoms including, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite or nausea.
The latest outbreak is adding to public worries about communicable diseases.
"How can we believe that this is not an outbreak if we don't know how many people have already been infected with the disease?" said one online commenter on Sina Weibo, according to the Global Times.
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver and is usually transmitted person-to-person or through fecal-oral transmission.