Health officials report 19th hepatitis A related death in San Diego County
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A nineteenth person has died, and over 500 people have been infected by an outbreak of hepatitis A affecting mostly San Diego’s homeless community, county officials reported Tuesday.
The outbreak was detected in March, and traced back to November of last year. In San Diego County, at least 507 people have been infected with the disease and 19 people have died — the majority of cases affecting homeless individuals and/or drug users.
Data released by county health officials Tuesday, which breaks down the number of cases by geographic area, indicates 63 percent of cases were within San Diego city limits.
Most infections occurred downtown, near Balboa Park, followed by El Cajon and Barrio Logan.
The number of cases in San Diego County vastly surpasses other jurisdictions in the state. Upon last update, 576 cases have been reported in California, the state’s Department of Public Heath said.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to allow the state to increase its supply of vaccines. That is in addition to both the county and city’s local state of emergency declarations.
As the ongoing effort to combat the disease, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a plan Friday to allow firefighters and paramedics to administer vaccinations against the disease. Teams will deploy to immunize at-risk populations in the city.
The city also opened in recent weeks two transitional camp areas for homeless individuals — a tent area in Golden Hill that includes bathrooms and 24-hour security, and a parking area in Clairemont for people living in their cars. Another car lot will open in Murphy Canyon.
Officials plan to erect three permanent tent facilities later this year, which will act as large homeless shelters.
On the county level, $3 million has been spent in response to the outbreak, the majority going to nurses and vaccinations and the rest going towards sanitation efforts such as hand washing stations and hygiene kits.
The disease doesn’t always cause symptoms, but those who do experience fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools and diarrhea.
Health officials say the most effective way to fight the contagious liver disease is by vaccinating at-risk populations, which include first responders, food handlers, health care professionals, service workers who interact with the homeless, workers in substance abuse programs and public transit employees.
In the past several months, county officials have made vaccines available free to the public, including those in homeless encampments and other hepatitis A hot spots. To continue the momentum in battling the virus, the city of San Diego has partnered with the county to provide free vaccinations at public libraries through December.
- Friday, Oct. 20 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library, 5148 Market St.
- Tuesday, Nov. 21 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
- Tuesday, Dec. 19 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
For more information on upcoming clinics, residents are asked to call 2-1-1 or go to 211SanDiego.org.