What To Know About Hepatitis A, When California Is Hit By A Massive Hepatitis Outbreak, The Worst One In The US In Two Decades

Date October 18, 2017

Hepatitis Outbreak in California: What Is Happening?

California is now battling the worst outbreak of hepatitis A in the US since 2003. So far, at least 18 people have died, 386 have been hospitalized, and at least 578 have become infected, as stated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Most of the cases have been reported in San Diego County, with 490 infected, 342 hospitalized, and 18 dead.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the CA, which allows the CDPH to buy extra vaccines directly from manufacturers and administer them as quickly as possible. The majority of those affected are homeless people and people who use illicit drugs. It can be difficult to reach these populations, because they are often suspicious of public health authorities, and many of them are not too concerned about the disease. Still, the CDPH workers are doing everything in their power to halt the outbreak. Dr. Matt Zahn, medical director of epidemiology at the Orange County Health Care Agency, said:

The key is to bring the vaccination directly to the communities at risk. This population is not easy to reach, so we make interventions to bring it to them. San Diego has done a marvelous job to have their staff go out to the homeless community, individual by individual, and offer the vaccine then and there.

Hepatitis A: Questions and Answers

What is hepatitis A and what are its symptoms?

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver, caused by a virus. This type of hepatitis rarely becomes chronic. It can take 15-50 days for the infection to show symptoms, and people who are infected can spread the virus before they have any symptoms, and even if they don’t have any. This is what makes the disease difficult to control.

Sjstudio6 / Shutterstock

In some cases, hepatitis A shows no symptoms, but when it does, they are the following:

- jaundice;

- abdominal pain;

- nausea and vomiting;

- diarrhea;

- loss of appetite;

- fever;

- fatigue.

How is the disease spread and who is at risk of becoming infected?

Hepatitis A spreads through fecal matter. An individual becomes infected when he or she ingests the virus. It happens when a person eats uncooked foods that had been contaminated, consumes foods or drinks that were contaminated during handling, or eats raw shellfish, harvested from water that has virus in it.

Certain groups of people are at an increased risk of becoming infected. They include people who travel to areas where the virus is widespread, people who share a household or are in a sexual contact with an infected person, men who have intercourse with other men, people who use drugs (especially if they are injected), and healthcare workers who come into direct contact with people who have the virus.

Healthy people usually recover from hepatitis A within a couple of months. But the disease can cause serious complications in those whose liver is already damaged, and in people with weakened immune system.

Jarun Ontakrai / Shutterstock

How can you avoid getting infected with hepatitis A?

Highly effective vaccines against hepatitis A are available. Two doses are recommended; 95% of adults become immune after they get the first shot, almost 100% of adults become immune after they get two shots (ask your doctor how long the immunity will last).

Another important preventive measure is good hygiene. Most hand sanitizers and household cleaning products can't kill the virus. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after cooking, and after changing a diaper. Use bleach-based products when cleaning surfaces that may have been contaminated.

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide medical advice. Fabiosa doesn’t take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action, or application of medication, which results from reading or following the information contained in this post. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader should consult with their physician or other health care provider.