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540 People Ill in Pa. Hepatitis A Outbreak

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PITTSBURGH, Nov 18, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The hepatitis outbreak in western Pennsylvania grew larger Tuesday with another person hospitalized in critical condition in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the unidentified patient was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where another patient with hepatitis A tied to a Beaver, Pa., outbreak was still in critical condition. A third patient at the hospital was in fair condition Tuesday.

The newspaper said the total number of confirmed cases traced to a Chi-Chi's restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall stood at 540, with investigators now watching for secondary infections -- new patients who were infected by people who were sickened in the Chi-Chi's outbreak.

Although hepatitis A is not usually fatal, three people who were diagnosed with the illness have died since the outbreak began last month. Pennsylvania health officials said nearly 10,000 people have been screened for the illness and more than 9,000 have received injections of immune globulin to help prevent infection.

Although restaurant employees have not been ruled out as the source of the outbreak, officials are investigating a possible food contamination. -- possibly green onions served in salsas and other dishes.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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