Health

Hepatitis A Case Reported at County Psychiatric Hospital

An individual at the San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, potentially exposing others to the virus according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).

An individual at the San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, potentially exposing others to the virus according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).

Some staff, patients and visitors who were at the hospital between April 5 and April 25 are being notified they were potentially exposed.

“The risk is low, but anyone who was at the psychiatric hospital who was notified about the exposure should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., County Deputy Public Health Officer. “Anyone who has been immunized with Hepatitis A vaccine or previously had the disease is considered protected from the virus.

“We encourage anyone who has not had the vaccine and who may have been exposed to contact us or their health care provider to discuss options for prevention.” 

The early signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A appear two to seven weeks after exposure and commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, light color stools, pain in the upper right abdomen, and yellowness to the eyes or skin (jaundice).

Illness from Hepatitis A varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting four to six weeks or longer.  Some individuals may not develop jaundice or any symptoms at all.  However, even mildly ill people can still be highly infectious and should consult a physician.

Hepatitis A vaccine is being offered to potentially exposed staff. Vaccinations for discharged hospital patients and visitors will be offered at Public Health Services Clinic Complex in Suite S (next door to the hospital) at 3851 Rosecrans Street, San Diego. Shots will be available on a walk-in basis from April 26 through May 7. The clinic hours are: Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Wednesdays 11:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; and Thursdays 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m..  Potentially exposed individuals may also obtain Hepatitis A immunizations through their primary care physicians. 

 Health officials recommend Hepatitis A vaccine for potentially exposed healthy persons from 12 months to 40 years old, and it may also be considered for older patients because it provides long term protection. Although no children were potentially exposed in this case, Hepatitis immune globulin may be used for those under 12 months, those over 40 and those who are immune compromised or have chronic liver disease. 

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter (even microscopic amounts) from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by an infected person.  People are at increased risk of getting Hepatitis A when they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected individual, particularly in a household or institutional setting.  Careful hand washing and vaccination are important ways to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.

For more information about Hepatitis A, call the HHSA Immunization Program at (866) 358-2966, or search for “Hepatitis A” at http://www.cdc.gov.  

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