Health

Hepatitis A Cases Down Again; Emergency Continues

County nurse Jackie Kersey-Hardrick vaccinates a man in East Village.
County nurse Jackie Kersey-Hardrick vaccinates a man in East Village.

While the number of new hepatitis A cases has slowed in recent weeks, the outbreak is still considered a local health emergency.

That is why the County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend it another two weeks. The Board is required to review the hepatitis A local health emergency—declared Sept. 1—every 14 days.

At the meeting, County public health officials told the Board there have been 10 cases or fewer reported each week for the past 9 weeks. There was an increase of six cases from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4.

Since the outbreak began on Nov. 22, 2016, a total of 567 cases have been reported, including 20 deaths. Of those, 382 people were hospitalized.

The County and community partners have given 108,716 vaccinations, including 92,379 to at-risk populations, as part of the County’s vaccination, sanitation and education strategy.

Expanded outreach efforts are underway in targeted communities to make sure the outbreak does not extend into other populations. They include:

  • Six vaccination clinics at the LGBT Center and other organizations that serve men who have sex with men. Three mobile van clinics are also scheduled in Hillcrest in December.
  • Education and food safety guidelines provided to the faith-based community so they can continue their charity and food distribution efforts involving at-risk groups over the holidays.
  • Providing vaccinations at the recently opened tent, as well as upcoming tent locations serving the homeless populations.

Hepatitis A is most commonly spread from 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.

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