Health officials in Maine say the state's opioid epidemic has likely been a major contributor to a recent rise in reported hepatitis B cases.
The Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 29 cases of acute hepatitis B this year through Sept. 1. In a typical year, Maine has fewer than 10 cases.
The state has a rate of 2.2 hepatitis B cases per 100,000 residents so far in 2016. That figure is more than twice the national average for 2014, the latest data available.
Maine CDC officials say sharing needles is a major risk factor for the infection, which can cause liver damage.
To combat the increase, health officials have advocated for the expansion of needle exchange programs statewide.