Hepatitis A Outbreak in San Diego County Infects 232 people and Killed Eleven Since November 2016
San Diego County is dealing with California’s largest hepatitis A outbreak in almost two decades. The outbreak was first detected in November 2016 and has since lead to the infection of 232 people and has left eleven people dead. Most of the people affected are homeless and the county’s increased vaccination efforts, distribution of educational fliers, and specialized field outreach campaigns by government and nonprofit groups haven’t been able to stop the spread of this viral disease. Hepatitis A infections spread through contaminated food, drinks, drugs, through sex, or other contact. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, stated:
The outbreak is still an enigma. We have not been able to identify a particular food, beverage or any other product as being the source of the outbreak.
According to county records, the county averaged only 28 cases per year in San Diego from 2012 to 2016. Experts say that contamination most often occurs due to inadequate bathroom sanitation which is doubly difficult for those who are living on city streets. Five of the deaths were among homeless residents who did not use drugs, two more were homeless and used drugs and another was a drug user but not homeless. Hepatitis A symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and dark urine. Unfortunately, the vaccine for hepatitis A was not added to the childhood vaccination schedule until the mid-1990s, so many adults were not vaccinated as children. Free hepatitis A vaccine doses are available at county health centers in San Diego County for anyone without health insurance.