What to Know
- Anyone who may have been exposed to the virus can develop symptoms up to 50 days after the exposure.
- The disease can be spread through sexual contact, as well as touching objects or eating food contaminated with the virus.
- County officials say the best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.
An infectious disease doctor has explained how San Diegans can protect themselves from catching Hepatitis A amid the city's worst outbreak ever.
Sixteen people have died and more than 420 people have been infected, prompting the Board of Supervisors to declare a public health emergency last week.
The outbreak started among the city’s homeless population but is now spreading to other members of the community.
“If you can afford the vaccination, get immunized,” said Dr. Fadi Haddad, an infectious disease doctor at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, “If you cannot afford it, then use simple measures to protect yourself.”
Dr. Haddad said the virus can linger on surfaces for months and recommends washing your hands frequently, especially after you use public transportation or restrooms.
“Humans touch their faces frequently,” Dr. Haddad said. “We take hand held devices everywhere. We put them on our restaurant tables and I think we need to be more aware.”
Hepatitis A is typically not life threatening. However, it can lead to death if you are older or had a previous liver condition, said Haddad. The disease is self-limiting, which means once you've had the illness, you can’t get it again. The infection won’t stay with someone for their entire life.
There is no treatment or cure available. If you contract Hepatitis A, the sickness can last for several weeks.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine and light stool, according to Haddad.