Arizona hepatitis A outbreak tied to San Diego case

Posted at 11:57 AM, Oct 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-05 15:07:36-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV/CNS) - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say a hepatitis A outbreak in the Phoenix area is tied to a San Diego case.

Dr. Sally Iverson with the CDC, who is in San Diego for an "infectious disease convention," told 10News that an outbreak of hepatitis A in a Maricopa County homeless shelter in February had its origins with a San Diego man.

Iverson said molecular tests were conducted for confirmation, and investigators found the virus strain in Maricopa County was exactly identical to the strain in San Diego.

RELATED: City of San Diego sets up temporary camp for homeless

Many health professionals have said the outbreak has been very difficult to contain in a mobile society, even among homeless populations that many believe are tied to a particular location.

In San Diego, the State Emergency Medical Services Authority has granted a request by local health officials to allow paramedics to help with giving hepatitis A vaccinations.

In most cases, the vaccines have to be administered by a registered nurse or doctor, but demand has been so great that health officials are looking to provide more help.

The hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego has led to 17 deaths and has sickened more than 480 others -- nearly two-thirds of them being homeless or drug users.

In September, city officials hired a contractor to wash down streets and sidewalks in the East Village, and the program has since expanded into other areas where at-risk populations are located.

RELATED: Fight against hepatitis A spreads to more neighborhoods

The street cleaning is in addition to the city making more public restrooms available around the clock, setting up hand-washing stations, holding vaccination clinics in libraries and cleaning up encampments along the San Diego River.

On Wednesday, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, told members of the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee that it will be hard to tell when the outbreak is over, because hepatitis A has an incubation period that averages nearly one month, and could extend up to 50 days.

Someone could be contagious with the disease -- which attacks the liver - - for up to two weeks before developing symptoms such as jaundice, fever and long bouts of fatigue, Wooten said.

She said vaccinations are the best prevention, with the at-risk populations, those who provide them with services, food handlers and first responders among those recommended to get immunized. The vaccine requires two shots over a six-month period.