California Gov Declares State Of Emergency For Hepatitis Outbreak

 Hepatitis Outbreak

A State of Emergency has been declared by California Governor Jerry Brown due to an outbreak of Hepatitis A which has hit the state and is considered to be the second largest outbreak in history.

The outbreak has claimed 18 lives thus far. The outbreak began last year in a homeless community in San Diego and has now spread outside to surrounding regions. Los Angeles County is now experiencing outbreaks.

ABC local Channel 7 clarified that the California Department of Public health (CDPH) is reporting 576 cases so far with 386 hospitalizations. All 18 deaths have been in the San Diego area.

Santa Cruz has seen 71 cases with 33 hospitalizations, Los Angeles 8 cases with 6 hospitalizations, and other areas of California have reported 7 cases with 5 hospitalizations as of Friday.

Hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted through contaminated food. In 2003 in Monaca, Pennsylvania, almost 1,000 people were infected with Hepatitis A after eating contaminated onions at a restaurant. Three people died in that outbreak.

Although Hepatitis A is usually spread through consumption of food contaminated with the virus, this outbreak is spreading by person to person contact. Unsanitary conditions within homeless populations make Hepatitis virus more likely to affect more people as it is also transmitted through contact with feces. The CDC reports the spread of the disease is helped along because a person can infect others before they even have symptoms of the virus. The virus can survive for a long period of time once introduced into the environment. Health official also point out that this outbreak could last for years.

The current outbreak is believed to be caused by a strain of 1B genetic subtype, rare in the United States. This type of strain is usually only seen in the South African and Mediterranean region of the world and spread through contact with feces. Vaccination and handwashing, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is the best combat at this point. People without access to sanitation are the highest at risk for acquiring the virus.

The State of Emergency Declaration by Gov Brown will allow state health officials to acquire more doses of the Hepatitis vaccine. California has already distributed 81,000 vaccine doses since the outbreak first began but local authorities are advising that isn't enough.

The general population with access to sanitary conditions might be least affected so far, as well as children who are required or have already received the vaccine but homeless communities and drug user are urged to visit their local health departments as soon as possible to receive Hepatitis virus vaccinations.

For more information regarding the outbreak visit the CDC information page.