Hepatitis A emergency winding down

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

Tom Christensen
County of San Diego
Communications Office

The County Board of Supervisors extended the local public health emergency for hepatitis A again on Jan. 2, but efforts are now underway to transition out of the emergency amid declining case numbers.

Public Health officials told the board that they were assuring all new processes and procedures were being put in place to end the emergency declaration that was declared in September.

The board is required to review the need for continuing the emergency every 14 days.

From May to September, 2017 there were an average of 84 cases reported each month. That number slowed to 34 cases in October and dropped to 21 in November and in December declined further to seven cases.

“This downward trend in outbreak activity is evidence that our strategic approach of vaccination, sanitation and education has been working to halt this outbreak,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., county public health officer. “It’s still important that anyone with a known risk for hepatitis A who has not been vaccinated do so now so we can continue this trend.”

Six new cases were reported in the last two weeks, bringing the total number of cases in the outbreak to 577, resulting in 396 hospitalizations and 20 deaths.

The county and community partners have given 113,230 vaccinations, including 96,570 to at-risk populations, as part of the county’s vaccination, sanitation and education strategy.

Expanded outreach efforts continue in targeted communities to make sure the outbreak does not extend into other 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 www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs.html.

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