Hepatitis A Outbreak Declared in L.A. County

First, San Diego. Now L.A. County.

Los Angeles County health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak Tuesday, days after a public health emergency was announced in San Diego County, where at least 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus.

Case numbers are still small in L.A. County, with only 10 people infected as part of the outbreak, said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. By comparison, almost 450 people have contracted the virus in San Diego.

Ferrer said the department is ramping up prevention efforts locally so more people don’t get sick. San Diego’s outbreak has already spread to Santa Cruz, where 69 people have been diagnosed.

The outbreaks are primarily affecting homeless communities. But the illness is contagious, so anyone who comes in contact with an infected person could be at risk. This typically happens through contaminated food. For instance, the only outbreak in the last 20 years larger than the current epidemic in San Diego was spread by green onions that were being served in a restaurant in Pennsylvania. That outbreak affected 900 people.

Health officials are warning against the sharing of food and drinks and reminding people to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food. Most importantly, adults who have not yet been vaccinated should talk to their health care professionals about receiving the shot.


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