Health

Board of Supervisors Extends Local Health Emergency

A San Diego County Public Health Nurse gives a vaccination as part of the Homeless Outreach Team efforts to stop the spread of Hepatitis A.
A San Diego County Public Health Nurse gives a vaccination as part of the Homeless Outreach Team efforts to stop the spread of Hepatitis A.

The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved continuing the local public health emergency declared on Sept. 1 for the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in the county. The Board is required to review the need for continuing the declaration at least every 14 days.

As part of the review, Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer, updated the board on the County’s efforts to halt the outbreak with increased efforts in three key areas: vaccination, sanitation and education.

There are currently 461 cases associated with the outbreak and 315 of those people have been hospitalized. There have been 17 deaths now from the outbreak.

The Health and Human Services Agency and the local health care community have given 42,000 vaccinations since the outbreak began.

Just over 22,400 of them have been given by local health care systems, community clinics and pharmacies in the county. Another 15,660 of them have been given through mass vaccination events, mobile vans and over 325 foot teams that have hit the streets to target the homeless population.

Sanitation efforts are also increasing. There are 66 handwashing stations placed around the County with the majority in the City of San Diego. Another 100 are on the way.

The County has also distributed over 4,400 hygiene kits to the at-risk population. The kits include hand sanitizer, cleansing wipes, bottled water, a waste bag and information on preventing hepatitis A.

In conjunction with the County Department of Environmental Health, an extensive education campaign is ongoing with food handlers and restaurants. There are also targeted vaccinations events for food handlers.

Public health officials have also made over 100 community presentations on the outbreak.

Hepatitis A is most commonly spread person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools.  Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than two months.  However, some people can be ill for as long as six months. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and even death.

For general information on hepatitis A, visit the HHSA hepatitis website where data are updated routinely. A hepatitis A fact sheet is also available.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact