Two people in San Diego have died from hepatitis A and 36 people have been hospitalized from the disease, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA).
Twenty-nine of those cases have a history of substance abuse and 27 are homeless. Five people became ill with hepatitis A after traveling outside the United States. No common sources of infection have been identified and investigations are still ongoing.
“The County is working closely with the local health community to increase outreach to vulnerable populations to raise awareness and promote hepatitis A vaccination,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Those at risk are urged to talk to their health care providers and get vaccinated for hepatitis A.”
Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease. The CHHSA says that the vaccine is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, but most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus.
Dr. Sayone Thihalolipavan, County deputy public health officer, said that people don't hear too much about hepatitis A nowadays thanks to the help of the vaccine that came out around 20 years ago.
Thihalolipavan also added that from 2011-2015, there were 15 to 40 cases of hepatitis A per year, according to Health and Human Services data.
"Given the current outbreak already has 42 hepatitis A cases, we are actively working with the medical community to address this," said Thihalolipavan.
Risk factors for hepatitis A infection include living with or having sexual contact with someone who has the virus, or sharing injection or non-injection illegal drugs with someone who is infected.
The hepatitis A virus can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water.
The CHHSA recommends that all children receive the first dose of vaccine between 12 months and 23 months of age, and the second dose six to 18 months later.
If you are planning an international trip, you should check the CDC Travelers’ Health website to see if a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended before going to your intended destinations.
Those without medical insurance can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 211.