Hepatitus A outbreak in SD may affect food industry

Posted at 11:20 PM, Aug 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-29 02:25:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County has gotten so bad, the County's public health officer has now recommended that even people who handle food get vaccinated.

Since early 2017, the Public Health Services Division, in the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, has been investigating.

As of August 22, there have been 352 cases, 264 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths.

RELATED: Hepatitis A outbreak claims fourth life in San Diego County 

The County says the majority of people who have contracted Hepatitis A are homeless and/or illicit drug users, although some cases have been neither. The outbreak is spreading from person-to-person and through contact with a fecally contaminated environment or object. 

Amy Gonyeau is the chief operating officer for the Alpha Project and works with homeless people almost every day. She says volunteers with the organization have been hitting the streets of San Diego County, passing out thousands of flyers and informational pages in hopes of educating the population about how to prevent and stop the spread of Hepatitis A. Information includes what the symptoms are and where to get treatment.

“It was pretty shocking to see how many people didn’t know this was even going on,” Gonyeau said.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus and is highly contagious. It can cause liver disease lasting weeks or months, and in some cases, people die.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the infection handled, or having sex with someone infected.

While it doesn't always cause symptoms, some Hepatitis A symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes (jaundice), stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, and diarrhea.

“When you think of it as an ‘I’m just out and about at a restaurant’ type situation well yeah, there’s a sink and a bathroom right there and you can go wash your hands, and you don’t have to worry about it as much," Gonyeau said. "Of course, the people feeding you, you might have to worry about now.”

Hepatitis A can be prevented by getting two shots of the HAV vaccine.

More information about the outbreak can be found on the San Diego County website