On Sept. 1 2017, San Diego County health officials declared a state of emergency after a sudden outbreak of Hepatitis A sickened hundreds of people.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver. It can cause fevers, stomach pains, diarrhea, and jaundice– yellowing of the eyes and skin. In severe cases, Hep-A will cause liver failure and result in death, though this is relatively rare.
As of now, over 400 people in San Diego alone have been infected by the virus, and 16 people have died. Illicit drug users and the homeless community account for up to 65% of cases.
Hepatitis A is transmitted by eating contaminated food, general contact from those around you, or sexual contact. In addition, the virus can survive in the digestive tract for months and freezing temperatures do not kill it, though boiling will.
As a preventative step, the city has hired a vendor to use a bleach solution to clean streets. The cleanings will occur 3 times a week every other week.
Handwashing stations have been set up, as many of the victims are homeless with no access to bathrooms.
The city is also offering free vaccinations to try to eliminate the threat completely.
“We’ve vaccinated over 21,000 individuals,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego’s Director of Public Health Services, said. “The majority of those are the at-risk population or individuals who have association with the at-risk population.”
Despite cautionary steps to try to avoid spreading the virus, the number of cases continues to grow.
The outbreak has spread to Santa Cruz, having around 70 cases, and Los Angeles having ten confirmed cases.
Officials are continuing their prevention programs and hope the outbreak is contained. As of now, there are no confirmed sources of the virus.
“Public Health has been proactively preparing for an outbreak for some time and is working diligently to prevent spread in local communities,” Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, an LA Interim Health Officer said. “Our priorities are to keep all our residents both safe and well informed of the situation.”