How bad is the Hepatitis A Outbreak?
As of September 12, 2017, there have been 421 cases reported that are related to the San Diego County outbreak. Of those, 16 people have died and 292 have been hospitalized. (This number does not include people who have been contracted Hepatitis A elsewhere.)
Most of the cases have been from downtown San Diego, El Cajon, Santee, La Mesa, and the adjacent unincorporated areas, county officials said.
The infected cases include four healthcare workers and six food handlers. "Although no secondary cases have resulted from the individuals working in these sensitive occupations," the county said in a written release.
How can I get Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that is highly contagious. The Hepatitis A Virus can be contracted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the Hepatitis A infection has handled or by having sex with someone who has an HAV infection.
The outbreak is being spread person-to-person and through feces on the street and sidewalks. There have been no common sources of food, beverage or drugs identified as of yet.
How serious is the virus?
The Hepatitis A Virus can cause liver disease, lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. In some cases, people can die.
Some people get the virus but have no symptoms. Signs of infection include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes (jaundice), stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, and diarrhea. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children.
What can I do to protect myself?
The most effective prevention is to get the Hepatitis A Virus vaccine. Approximately 19,000 vaccinations have been given across the county in response to the outbreak. More than 7,300 vaccinations have been given to the at-risk population, which includes the homeless population and illicit drug users, according to county officials. Call your doctor of the county's information line at 211 for details on getting a vaccine.
Use your own towels, toothbrushes, and utensils. Avoid sharing food, drinks or cigarettes with others. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or preparing food.
Where can I learn more about the Hepatitis A Outbreak here?
San Diego County has developed a website with updates on the outbreak and information you can share with family member or employees.
There are also hotlines for anyone who wants to talk with someone about the virus or prevention concerns.
- County HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch—619-293-4700
- California AIDS, STD and Hepatitis Hotline—800-367-AIDS (2437) - 24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Information Hotline — 800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) (24 hours/day, 7 days/week)