SAN DIEGO–San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reports that eight people have died as a result of the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego.
All eight people had underlying medical conditions at the time of their death, according to Tom Christensen, County of San Diego Communications Office.
So far, 275 cases were identified during the local outbreak, including 194 people who have been hospitalized. People who are either homeless or using illicit drugs account for at least seven in ten of the illnesses, and just over one in five also have hepatitis C.
“We continue to stress that people who are at risk should get vaccinated and people need to be vigilant about washing their hands after going to the bathroom,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We are continuing to evaluate cases, but so far public health investigators have not identified any common food, drink or drug source as the contributing cause to this outbreak.”
The County is working with community partners to conduct vaccination clinics for people who are at risk for hepatitis A. These partners include homeless services providers, community health clinics, faith-based community organizations, substance abuse treatment providers, hospital emergency departments, jails, and probation facilities.
Hepatitis A is most commonly spread person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools. Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than two months. However, some people can be ill for as long as six months. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and even death.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. The hepatitis A vaccine became available in 1995 and is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule.
However, many adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus.
“Today is World Hepatitis Day, and anyone in San Diego County who is concerned about getting hepatitis A is encouraged to get the vaccine if they have not already gotten it,” said Wooten.
Hepatitis A vaccine is available at many doctors’ offices and clinics and at some retail pharmacies. For persons without health insurance, vaccine is available at County Public Health Centers. For a list of locations, call 2-1-1 or visit sdiz.org.