THIRD HEPATITIS A DEATH REPORTED IN COUNTY

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By Tom Christensen, County of San Diego Communications Office

May 6, 2017 (San Diego) - A third person has died as a result of the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County, and as of May 1 the total case count has risen to 80, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

Sixty-six people have been hospitalized during the outbreak. Public health investigators are still evaluating cases; no common food, drink or drug source has been identified.

The County has been conducting vaccination clinics in the community and working with partners, such as local homeless outreach and faith-based community organizations, in an effort to reach those most at risk.

“We are partnering with the community to ensure the people most at risk – particularly the homeless – have access to the hepatitis A vaccine,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.  “We’ve increased our outreach to vulnerable populations and have worked with organizations to host vaccination clinics and make information available.

“We are strongly encouraging people who are at risk to check with their health care providers and get vaccinated for hepatitis A.”

Non-health care individuals who work closely with homeless people and illicit drugs users on a frequent and ongoing basis, such as those who work or volunteer at homeless services agencies, are recommended to get the hepatitis A vaccine, if they are not already vaccinated.

Seven cases have been reported in local detention facilities where they may have exposed others. If you were an inmate in the following facilities during the following dates, and exposed within the past two weeks, it is recommended you get the hepatitis A vaccine. If you were exposed within the past three to seven weeks, you should watch for symptoms and see your health care provider if any symptoms develop. Exposures occurred at the following facilities:

– George Bailey Detention Facility

  • from March 22 to April 4 in area 2A or medical cell 103
  • from April 7 to April 19 in Area 3C
  • from April 11 to April 24 in Area 1A
  • from April 6 to April 18 in Areas 4A, 6A, 2A
  • from April 14 to April 21 in Area 1A

– San Diego Central Jail from March 22 to April 1 in Area 5A

– Vista Detention Facility from April 9 to April 17 in Areas E3, E6 or medical cell 4

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.

Two doses of hepatitis A vaccine are routinely recommended for:

  • All children (first dose of vaccine between 12 months and 23 months of age, and the second dose six to 18 months later)
  • Travelers to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A (high-risk areas include parts of Africa and Asia, and moderate risk areas include Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • Homeless people
  • Household or sexual contacts of hepatitis A patients
  • People with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates

Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food or water.  In addition to vaccination, it is important for everyone to wash their hands before preparing or eating food, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.  Hepatitis A can also be spread by having sexual contact or sharing drugs with someone who is infected.

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.

Individuals are recommended to check their hepatitis A vaccination status and talk to their health care providers about the risks for hepatitis A.  Persons planning an international trip should check the CDC Travelers’ Health website to see if hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for the intended destinations.

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, visit http://www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

For general information on hepatitis A, visit the CDC Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public website.