A fifth person has died as a result of a Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County.
There have been 228 total cases of the virus and 161 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak. The viral liver disease can cause mild to severe illness.
“It is imperative that anyone at risk for hepatitis A get vaccinated,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., county public health officer, in a statement. “We cannot stress this enough – get vaccinated and make sure you wash your hands after going to the bathroom."
Homeless people and drug users account for at least seven in ten of the illnesses, said county officials. One in five people diagnosed with hepatitis A also has hepatitis C.
High-risk groups for the virus include travelers to certain countries, drug users, homeless people, people with chronic liver disease, people who work at homeless services agencies, health care personnel and people involved in sanitizing areas where the homeless are located.
“Lives are at risk. Protect yourself, your family and the community," added Wooten.
The disease can be spread through sexual contact, as well as touching objects or eating food contaminated with the virus, according to the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).
There have been exposures to the virus at a number of county detention facilities, with 12 reported cases of the virus. See the following list of possible exposures:
George Bailey Detention Facility
- Area 1A: from April 10 to April 24
- Area 2A: from May 17 to June 5
- Area 3A: on April 24
- Area 3C: from April 24 to May 1, on May 5, and from May 15 to May 18
San Diego Central Jail
- Area 4A: from May 8 to May 10
- Area 7B: from April 24 to May 26
- Area 8C: from April 24 to May 7
East Mesa Detention Facility: May 6 to May 8
Anyone who may have been exposed to the virus can develop symptoms up to 50 days after the exposure.
County officials said the best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. The vaccine has been available since 1995 and is recommended in routine childhood vaccination schedules.
Visit San Diego County's HHSA to learn more about San Diego's immunization program.
Good hygiene can also help to prevent hepatitis A. County officials recommend washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before eating, after using the restroom or changing a diaper.
They also advise against directly touching the door handle when exiting a public restroom, as well as sharing food, drinks or smoking materials with other people.