San Diego

As Hepatitis A Outbreak Grows County Declining to Release Zip Code Where Cases Reported

A San Diego County spokesperson said HIPAA regulations restrict the county from releasing zip code location data detailing where Hepatitis A cases have been reported.

UPDATE (10/17/17): The County of San Diego released data showing the number of hepatitis A infections reported in each zipcode, across San Diego County. 

While the number of reported Hepatitis A infections continues to grow both in San Diego County and other parts of California, local officials are not releasing specific details on where the cases have been reported. 

On Tuesday, San Diego County Health and Human Services updated the number of people infected by the virus, saying seventeen people have died and 461 cases have been confirmed. Of those cases, there have been 315 hospitalizations. 

To read more about the updated figures, click here.

Two weeks ago, officials released a map showing reported hepatitis A cases and their relation to the homeless population in San Diego County. The map was originally presented during a San Diego County Board of Supervisors hearing earlier this year. 

Click here or look below to see that map.


After receiving the map, NBC 7 Investigates asked the county to provide the data behind the map. In an email, county spokesman Michael Workman declined to release the information because it contained “too much protected info.” 

NBC 7 Investigates followed-up by specifically asking for the following information on each reported case:

  • Date the case was reported
  • Zip code where the report originated
  • If the case was fatal

In an email, Workman responded to the request with the response he received from county lawyers. 

It said, “The underlying data is confidential pursuant to California Code of Regulations Title 17 Section 2500 which requires the local health officer to keep confidential any personal information about any case (person who has been diagnosed with a reportable disease) that has been reported to them...Since the address where a homeless individual is located could identify the individual, we cannot provide this information.” 

UPDATE (10/17/17): On October 16, the county released data showing where hepatitis A infections were reported. 

The County declined to release hepatitis A fatality locations, saying the release would not be appropriate. In an email, Michael Workman, spokesman for the county, said, “Fatalities associated with Hepatitis A are connected to underlying medical conditions such as Hepatitis C or cirrhosis of the liver, not physical location.  In other words, Hepatitis A is not more fatal in one community or another.”  

NBC 7 Investigates’ request for the date of each reported hepatitis A infection was not addressed in the release. 

To read more about the zip code data released, click here.  

Donna Frye, a former San Diego City Councilmember and an open government advocate, said the public has a right to know this “critical health information.” 

“It is absurd to claim that providing zip codes, dates and whether there were any deaths is a violation of anyone’s confidential information,” Frye said in an email. “The real violation is the county refusing to provide the information.” 

NBC 7 Investigates requested the same information from the health departments in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties, areas also experiencing an outbreak of the virus. 

When asked for a breakdown by zip code, Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin said the county did not have the information compiled in that way but said he would look into how to get that information. 

Hoppin was able to provide some location information about where the cases in his county have been reported. He said a majority of the cases have been reported in downtown Santa Cruz represented by the zip codes 95060 and 95062 with other cases reported in the San Lorenzo Valley, represented by zip codes 95005, 95006 and 95007. 

UPDATE (10/17/17): Santa Cruz County officials sent NBC 7 Investigates a breakdown of zip codes where hepatitis A infections were reported. 

To see Santa Cruz County’s breakdown, click here

In addition, roughly 80% or 50-55 of the reported Santa Cruz County hepatitis A patients are homeless, according to Hoppin. 

Los Angeles County’s Public Health Department would only say the cases were reported throughout Los Angeles County and directed inquiries to the department’s website, where the total number of cases is reported without a breakdown by the community.  

NBC 7 Investigates will continue to follow this and update this article, if the county releases the information requested.

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