Health

Potential Hepatitis A Exposure at Treatment Center

County nurse Paulina Bobenrieth vaccinates a patient in downtown San Diego.
County nurse Paulina Bobenrieth vaccinates a patient in downtown San Diego.

Residents at the Volunteers of America (VOA) Renaissance Treatment Center in National City during a specific time period may have been exposed to hepatitis A, the County Health and Human Services Agency reported today.

HHSA recommends vaccination for anyone who was a resident at the facility at 2300 E. 7th Street, National City anytime from June 19 through June 21. Those who are already vaccinated or who have had hepatitis A do not need vaccination.  Residents at other VOA locations were not exposed.

San Diego County has an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A that has slowed significantly in 2018. Only 13 of the outbreak’s 590 cases were reported this year.  The majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A during the outbreak have been homeless and/or illicit drug users.

“Hepatitis A can be prevented with vaccination if it is given within 14 days of exposure,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Those who may have been exposed at VOA should be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis A and seek care immediately if they occur.  Adults at risk for hepatitis A can get the vaccine at no cost at any County public health center.”

The hepatitis A vaccine is also available at many local clinics and pharmacies. Call 2-1-1 San Diego to locate a County public health center or clinic.

Hepatitis A symptoms include sudden abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, headache, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements, and vomiting, followed by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Symptoms may appear from 15 to 50 days after exposure, with the average time being about one month. Sickness can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. In rare cases of hepatitis A infection, those with a pre-existing severe illness or a compromised immune system can progress to liver failure.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. Due to the current outbreak, the following groups are strongly recommended to get the hepatitis A vaccine:

  • People who are homeless
  • Users of illegal drugs
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. They may not be at increased risk of getting hepatitis A but are at increased risk of poor outcomes if infected
  • People who work with, provide services to, or clean up after the homeless and/or illegal drug users
  • Food handlers who have adult clients. Food handlers are not at increased risk, but if infected can impact large number of people. Children get routine vaccinations for hepatitis A, so vaccination is not recommended for food handlers in schools unless they are in an at-risk group
  • Anyone who is concerned about hepatitis A virus exposure and wants to be immune. During the present outbreak, hepatitis A vaccine is not being recommended for general public

In addition to the above groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely recommends vaccinations for:

  • People with clotting factor disorders
  • People who conduct laboratory research with the virus
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People in close personal contact with adopted children from countries where hepatitis A is common

For more information about hepatitis A, visit the County’s hepatitis A webpage.

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