There have been Hepatitis A outbreaks in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties, primarily in their homeless and illicit drug user populations. Orange County has identified two cases of Hepatitis A associated with the outbreak in San Diego. Only one had a history of homelessness with apparent exposure in San Diego, and there have been no subsequent infections/transmissions tied to either case. There is not an outbreak in Orange County; however the risk of Hepatitis A cases is real and the OC Health Care Agency (HCA) is taking active steps to be prevent such an occurrence here.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A viral infection that causes liver disease that can range from mild to severe, and for some will result in death. The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route, i.e. the virus is ingested by mouth from contact with hands, objects, food or drinks that are contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Regular hand washing, with soap and water is an effective prevention strategy. Waterless hand sanitizers are not effective against Hepatitis A.
Why do Hepatitis A outbreaks occur?
Hepatitis A outbreaks can be the result of the exposure of many people to a common source such as contaminated food or can be the result of person-to-person transmission where one or more infected people start a chain of transmission.
What are common risk factors?
Common risk factors for Hepatitis A include: traveling to a country where Hepatitis A is common, being in a household or having sexual contact with a person with Hepatitis A, being a man who has sex with men, and using illegal injection and non-injection drugs. The general public is at minimal risk of infection.
Should I get vaccinated?
Hepatitis A vaccination for at-risk individuals may be obtained by health care providers. For those at risk, two doses is recommended, however one dose has been shown to provide significant protection. Being homeless, in and of itself, generally is not a risk factor; however due to the outbreaks in surrounding counties, there is currently a recommendation that homeless individuals obtain vaccinations. Hepatitis A vaccination is also routinely recommended for persons with high risk conditions or behaviors including users of injection and non-injection illicit drugs. Our Public Health Services team continues to offer vaccinations on a walk-in basis at the Public Health clinic at 1725 W. 17th Street. HCA’s Health Referral Line (800 564-8448) also maintains current information on where to obtain a free vaccination.
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