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HIV outbreak prompts health officials across West Virginia to be alert

An HIV outbreak in 15 counties has prompted health officials across West Virginia to be alert.

An HIV outbreak in 15 counties has prompted health officials across West Virginia to be alert.

Those counties are in the southern part of the mountain state, but counties in the northern panhandle have reason to pay attention.

Marshall County was named as an at-risk county.

Other counties in the Ohio Valley were not named, but still health officials say they're following the outbreak closely.

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said an HIV outbreak in southern West Virginia has been contained.

Health officials say the virus was mostly spread by sexual contact between males. Only a few of the patients reported intravenous drug use.

"An outbreak can occur very quickly as a result of sexual activity, an increased risk, or too increased with opioid and intravenous drugs,” Gamble said. “And so we are always concerned that we could have an outbreak in a community, and it could happen very quickly.”

Gamble says an outbreak is simply a rise in the average amount of cases.

He says health departments across the state were notified in August that cases of HIV and Hepatitis C were on the rise.

He says steps have been taken, like the needle exchange program.

"So local health departments did increase surveillance, ability of testing, and just to be more aware, we are seeing an increase, and so in the summer, we became a little more heightened that we had an increase,” Gamble said.

Testing is offered at local health departments.

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