MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says the Pee Dee region has seen an increase in hepatitis A cases over the past three months, with the largest increase associated with Horry County according to the Pee Dee Regional Epidemiology Program Manager.

According to DHEC, the cases in South Carolina are not thought to be related to dirty water or contaminated food.

“In the United States, since we chlorinate our water we usually don’t have problems here with contaminated water,” Michelle King with McLeod Health said.

King said it is unclear what exactly is causing hepatitis A cases to rise in the area but says there could be a number of reasons why.

“During this time of year, we have an influx of people from all over the place,” King said. “People not washing their hands properly before eating or serving food. In some of our larger cities, we are going to have more homeless so we have certain areas in the Pee Dee where we have large populations of people and there are large populations, there is more homeless people and more drug abuse happening.”

King said the disease is highly contagious and the best way to prevent getting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.

Editor’s note: DHEC classifies both the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions as the Pee Dee.