Public Health Investigates Suspected Hepatitis A Case

Public Health Investigates Suspected Hepatitis A Case

A homeless encampment in Los Angeles. More than 60 percent of reported cases were among San Diego's homeless population.

Los Angeles County now has its own hepatitis A outbreak, with 10 cases reported in the county-two of which were "locally acquired", and can not be traced to either San Diego County or Santa Cruz.

With the number of documented hepatitis A cases continuing to rise, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego County health officials and several civic leaders joined together Tuesday to kick off a "Vaccination, Sanitation and Education" campaign to urge the public to take appropriate precautions. In fact, a public health emergency was declared in San Diego County the first week of September, 2017.

The city plans to identify additional sites for restrooms in the coming weeks on top of the 20 public restroom facilities now downtown, including Friday's installation, according to a city statement issued Saturday.

In Northern California, Santa Cruz County has confirmed 69 hepatitis A cases since April, compared to the normal one or two a year.

Davis said Long Beach has never had a hepatitis A outbreak as large as the current outbreak in San Diego. At-risk populations include homeless individuals, intravenous drug users, food handlers, janitorial workers and occupations/professions that have regular interactions with at-risk people, such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, homeless service providers and health care professionals.

Los Angeles County health officials said they had already counted eight infected patients, but those cases had been linked to the outbreak in San Diego and another in Santa Cruz County. Their homeless population has been hit the hardest. Hepatitis A is a liver disease that can be transmitted through eating bad or contaminated food. Rates of the virus in the USA have fallen by 95% since a hepatitis A vaccine first became available in 1995.

The city has started to comply with the directive, and on September 11 started washing areas where homeless people frequent using a diluted solution of household bleach.

However, both those who have other health issues or weakened immune systems can be hospitalized and suffer permanent liver damage. Anyone who was exposed to the virus but is not covered by a medical insurance plan, and wants to be evaluated for hepatitis A vaccination may go to any County public health center, where vaccinations will be given at no cost.