Health

Board Votes to Sponsor State Bill Giving Local Health Officers More Authority

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors today voted to support State Assembly Bill 262 (AB 262), which would strengthen the authority of the County public health officer to direct actions of governments in other local jurisdictions affected by an infectious disease outbreak.

Today’s action directs the County’s chief administrative officer to support and sign on as a sponsor of the bill, introduced by State Assembly members Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez. The goal is to give public health officers in the state the power to direct local jurisdictions what actions to take to prevent communicable disease outbreaks, such as the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County in 2017.

“The safety of our communities is our number one priority,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher who brought the item to the Board. “Moving forward with this provides us the authority necessary to inform and direct other jurisdictions on actions that they may need to take to potentially avoid a disease outbreak or help contain one.”

In March of 2017, the County Health and Human Services Agency documented an increase in hepatitis A cases among homeless people and users of illegal drugs. Despite vaccination and sanitation efforts, an increasing number of cases led the County public health officer to declare a local health emergency Sept. 1, 2017.

When the local health emergency ended in January 2018, a total of 20 people had died from hepatitis A and 577 people had contracted the virus, which also sent 395 San Diegans to the hospital.

In its effort to stop the outbreak, the County and community providers administered 203,858 vaccinations, with about 88.4 percent, or 180,242 vaccinations, given to the at-risk populations.

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

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact