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Hepatitis A Outbreak Reaches San Diego And Los Angeles

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A has spread far and wide in southern California, killing 16 people in San Diego County and transmitting to 10 people in Los Angeles county and 60 in Santa Cruz County, so far, according to reports. 

According to the Union Tribune, the first person known to be part of the recent outbreak was a homeless person who was cared for in November 2016 — four months before the Health and Human Services Agency declared an outbreak in the region. The person in question was later released and has shown no signs of the virus intensifying.

So far, over 400 cases of hepatits A were found in San Diego. 

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, health officials say the virus is being spread person-to-person through close contact or through contact with environments contaminated with feces, reports Daily Breeze

“I think we get freaked out when we hear the word outbreak,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. “The amazing increase in cases in San Diego and Santa Cruz has alerted us to the possibility.” 

Earlier this month, health officials identified a food vendor in Lancaster whose hepatitis A was traced back to San Diego. 

“We have now locally acquired infection in Los Angeles County,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Public Health, said. “As of this point, we’ve given over 1,000 vaccines at various outreach events. We really do need people to take seriously that this is a disease that is preventable if you are vaccinated.”

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconor joined public health officials this week to launch an education campaign about precautions for hepatitis, holding a news conference outside the bayside county building to urge those at-risk to get vaccinated. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of hepatitis A have seen a decline in the Inited States. In 2014, there were an estimated 2,500 acute hepatitis A infections. In LA County alone, Ferrer says they see around 40 to 60 cases a year. 

Hepatitis A is spread primarily through food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person, so the risk is higher among international travelers, people who have sexual activity with a person who has hepatitis A, childcare workers, men who have sex with men, and drug users. Sexually, one of the biggest culprits is oral-to-fecal contact. 

One of the things that make hepatitis A kinda tricky is its ability to survive — which it's done since human beings have beein living together in large numbers. While it doesn’t cause a chronic infection, like hepatitis C does, most immune systems are able to defeat the virus on its own. 

Children are routinely vaccinted since 1999, but many adults have yet to be. When left untreated, the liver disease will leave someone with symptoms like fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and a yellowing of the skin or eyes or jaundice.

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