A couple weeks ago, Los Angeles County health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak, just days after a public health emergency was announced in San Diego County, where at least 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, states that case numbers are still small in L.A. County, with only 10 people infected as part of the outbreak. That number is relatively small when compared to the almost 450 people have contracted the virus in San Diego. San Diego’s outbreak has already spread to Santa Cruz, where 69 people have been diagnosed. Ferrer stated,
We are very early in an outbreak and the more people who get vaccinated in the high-risk populations… the smaller the outbreak will end up being in L.A. County. This is in fact a disease that’s preventable
Officials say homeless people in California are most at risk, because the virus appears to be moving from person to person within that community. People become infected with hepatitis A, which affects the liver, by ingesting the feces of someone who’s infected, often through contaminated food or sexual contact. San Diego’s outbreak appears to be fueled by poor sanitary conditions, with many cases among people who used shared restrooms in jails or shelters. The city of Los Angeles is already cleaning the streets on skid row with bleach, a practice San Diego adopted earlier this month in an effort to reduce disease transmission. It typically takes about three weeks to notice symptoms, which include vomiting, fever, yellowing of the eyes or skin, joint pain and dark urine. Health officials reminded people not to share food, drinks or cigarettes with people, and to wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom and before handling food.