San Diego extends hepatitis A emergency as outbreak reportedly slows

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego's outbreak of hepatitis A appears to be slowing after more than two months, county health officials said Tuesday.

San Diego County has topped 100,000 hepatitis A vaccinations, the San Diego County Health and Human Service Agency announced. In a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors, health officials said there had been a downward trend in new cases over the past 11 weeks, with only two new cases added since the last report.

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The board also extended the region's health emergency, as it has been required to do every two weeks since the first declaration on Sept. 1.

As of Nov. 8, there have been 546 cases hepatitis A, requiring 369 hospitalizations and resulting in 20 deaths. Of the more than 100,000 vaccinations given, more than 84,000 have gone to at-risk populations.

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Since Nov. 1, cases increased in six zip codes: 92009 (+1), 92058 (+2), 92108 (+1), 92109 (+1), 92113 (+1), 92128 (+1). In five zip codes, cases decreased: 91910 (-1), 91911 (-1), 91942 (-1), 92037 (-1), 92103 (-2).

While experts said the outbreak was slowly locally, they warned the public to remain vigilant and encouraged at-risk individuals to get vaccinated.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the following groups as at-risk populations for hepatitis A:

  • Users of injection or non-injection illegal drugs
  • Gay males
  • People with chronic liver disease (cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C)
  • Travelers to countries with high or medium rates of hepatitis A
  • People with clotting factor disorders

The county also recommends the following populations receive a vaccination:

  • Homeless individuals
  • People who work on a close and ongoing basis with or clean up after homeless individuals and/or users of illegal drugs
  • Food handlers

Symptoms of hepatitis A include yellowing of skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stool. These symptoms can appear over multiple days and last less than two months - though individuals can be ill as long as six months. The virus is commonly spread orally or through fecal matter.

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