Officials Believe the Hepatitis A Outbreak Could Last Years
Last month, health officials stated that California’s outbreak of hepatitis A, which is already the nation’s second largest in the last 20 years, could continue for many months, even years. Local outbreaks have been declared in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties after almost 569 infections and 17 deaths due to the virus since November. Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted through contaminated food, but California’s outbreak is spreading from person to person, mostly among the homeless community. The only outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant. Dr. Monique Foster, a medical epidemiologist with the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated:
It’s not unusual for them to last quite some time — usually over a year, one to two years.
The virus is transmitted from feces to mouth, so unsanitary conditions make it more likely to spread. The city of San Diego has installed dozens of hand washing stations and begun cleaning streets with bleach-spiked water in recent weeks. According to Santa Cruz public health manager Jessica Randolph, new cases linked to the outbreak might not appear for weeks, because it can take up to 50 days for an infected person to show symptoms. Experts claim that usually only 1 out of every 100 people with hepatitis A dies from the disease. Hopefully all three counties are able to contain the outbreak and it doesn’t spread into any other counties.