Health

Hepatitis A Outbreak Update

Hand washing with soap and water can help to stop the spread of hepatitis A.
Hand washing with soap and water can help to stop the spread of hepatitis A.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors extended the hepatitis A outbreak public health emergency for another two weeks again on Tuesday.

The County’s public health officer declared the outbreak emergency on Sept. 1 and the board is required to review the need for continuing the declaration every 14 days.

Through Oct. 19, there have been 516 cases associated with the outbreak, including 19 deaths and 357 hospitalized.

The County and community partners have given nearly 84,000 hepatitis A vaccinations, including 70,748 to the at-risk population, which includes homeless individuals, illicit drug users, people with chronic liver disease, law enforcement and emergency personnel, people who work with homeless or treatment programs, food handlers, and men who have sex with men.

The Board was presented with a letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended against testing the San Diego River or any body of water for waterborne hepatitis A virus. The CDC letter stated there has not been a documented waterborne hepatitis A outbreak in over 30 years referred to the “futility of environmental sampling” during a person-to-person outbreak such as San Diego’s.

“There is no evidence that either water or environmental sampling provides additional information for addressing person-to-person HAV transmission,” said John Ward, CDC director of viral hepatitis wrote in the letter. “Thus, investing in these activities would unnecessarily divert resources that are needed to contain the outbreak in proven and effective ways (vaccination, education, restrooms, and hand hygiene practices).”

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