Hepatitis A outbreak spurs new legislation

SAN DIEGO (KUSI)- After a state audit found that San Diego and San Diego County were too slow to respond to the 2017 Hepatitis A crisis, a state lawmaker has introduced legislation to allow local health officials to act more quickly.

State Assemblymember Todd Gloria is sponsoring a bill that would establish specific roles and responsibilities for local governments during the outbreak of a communicable disease.

In 2017, the Hepatitis A epidemic in San Diego County killed 20 people and sickened nearly 600 others. Many of those who died from the virus were homeless and exposed to the disease through contact with feces.

A state audit released in December of 2018 found multiple problems with the City and County’s response.

The Auditor found the County of San Diego did not share location data with the City of San Diego about the concentration of confirmed cases until November of 2017.

Gloria said his Assembly Bill 262 would remedy those problems, by requiring County public health officers to promptly notify and update the cities in their jurisdictions about any communicable disease and provide relevant data such as the locations and concentrations of cases and the number of people involved.

The bill also gives public health officers the clear authority to tell cities what steps they need to take to fight the outbreak of a communicable disease.

In San Diego, those measures in 2017 included the pressure washing of sidewalks and streets, putting up hand washing stations and making more public toilets accessible. The County also made more Hepatitis A vaccines available, especially among people in high risk groups.

The state and local lawmakers who support the bill said when public health is at stake, the government cannot shrink from its responsibility to take decisive action.

“I think these are common sense provisions. I think it’s frustrating that they weren’t exercised during this outbreak. We want to make sure that in future outbreaks, common sense prevails and public health is protected and lives are ultimately saved,” Gloria said.

Full press conference on hepatitis A legislation:

Categories: Local San Diego News