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San Diego is struggling with a huge hepatitis A outbreak. Is it coming to L.A.?




Health officials in San Diego have scrambled for months to contain an outbreak of hepatitis A – vaccinating more than 19,000 people, putting up posters at bus stations and distributing hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes.

Despite those efforts, 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus in San Diego County and hundreds have become ill in what officials say is the nation’s second-largest outbreak of hepatitis A in decades.

“We know it’s getting worse in San Diego so we’re really ramping up,” said Cristin Mondy, the county’s area health officer for a region that includes downtown Los Angeles.

In their efforts to get their outbreak under control, San Diego health officials have adopted a technique from L.A. that they hope will stop cases from spreading locally: washing the streets with water containing bleach.

“That’s what we wanted to replicate here.” Several hundred infected in San Diego Hepatitis A is transmitted through feces, either through close contact, often sexual, with an infected person or by eating contaminated foods.

The virus can cause liver damage or even death, especially for people who already have other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C. San Diego health officials first identified an outbreak in March, but traced the first case back to November.

Since November, 421 people in San Diego County have been infected with the virus, including the 16 who died, health officials said.

The majority of those infected in the ongoing outbreak were either homeless or illicit-drug users, with cases concentrated in downtown San Diego and the cities of El Cajon, Santee and La Mesa, Wooten said.

Though hepatitis A is often contracted through contaminated food, the strain circulating in San Diego and Santa Cruz isn’t associated with food, but instead seems to be spreading from person to person, she said.

Since the spring, San Diego officials have put together a command center that meets once a week to map strategy.

READ MORE: LA TIMES

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