Vaccination, sanitation and education plan to end hepatitis A outbreak

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Mayor Kevin Faulconer, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and county health officials announced Tuesday a plan of "Vaccination, Sanitation & Education" to stop San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak.

"This is our community and we are working day and night to take care of it. It is going to require a sustained effort and everyone in San Diego County has a role to play," Mayor Faulconer said. 

The county's top medical professionals say there is no end in sight to the outbreak that began in March. 

RELATED: San Diego Hepatitis A death toll, those sickened rises

"This outbreak could last another six months and unfortunately there are going to be more lives that are going to be at risk," said Dr. Nick Yphantides, the county's chief medical examiner at a news conference outside the county administration building. 

Officials gave critical updates about the outbreak, which has killed 16 people and sickened 444 others. While most of the cases involved the homeless or drug users, 25 percent of the patients were neither, health officials said.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is usually transmitted by fecal-oral or person-to-person contact, or consumption of contaminated food or water. The disease is spread when infected patients go to the bathroom and do not wash their hands properly.

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Dr. Nick Yphantides, Chief Medical Officer for San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency, said there was no common source of food, beverage or drugs that have been identified as a contributing factor in the outbreak.

The City and County are taking actions, including:

  • Free vaccinations available by calling 211
  • 41 handwashing stations downtown
  • Sanitizing sidewalks
  • Adding more public restrooms

Vaccines are available for at-risk people, including:

  • Homeless San Diegans
  • IV drug users
  • Food handlers
  • Janitorial workers
  • First responders

For a list of free vaccination clinics, click HERE.

Dr. Yphantides noted the best precaution people can take to stop the outbreak is washing their hands and arms with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds after going to the bathroom.

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