With the investigation ongoing in San Diego County over the local outbreak of hepatitis A, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors ratified a local health emergency yesterday.
The emergency was declared on Sept. 1 by the County public health officer to raise awareness of the outbreak and allow the County to potentially ask for mutual aid if necessary. Board action was required to extend the local health emergency beyond its initial seven-day period.
To date, 398 people have been infected, including 15 deaths. Seven out of 10 people required hospitalization for their illness.
Approximately 65 percent of the cases have been among people who are homeless, use illicit drugs or a combination of those two factors.
The County has implemented a three-part strategy to combat the outbreak that includes immunization, sanitation and education efforts.
So far the County and community partners have immunized over 19,000 people, including approximately 7,300 to the at-risk population. There have been 256 mass vaccination events and 109 “foot teams” of public health nurses have gone out into areas with heavy homeless populations to offer vaccinations.
The public health officer has also issued new recommendations that people who handle food and health care workers get vaccinated.
Last week, 40 handwashing stations were placed in areas around the City of San Diego with high concentrations of homeless people. Steps are also being taken to sanitize areas where significant numbers of homeless people are living. Sanitation may help decrease the hepatitis A virus in the environment which may lower the likelihood of the virus spreading.
County staff have also distributed over 2,400 hygiene kits to individuals. The kits contain water, non-alcohol hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, clinic location information and plastic bags.
A prevention outreach campaign was started in mid-August in trolleys and bus stations in the City of San Diego. That campaign will be expanding into North County. Public Health has also made over 50 presentations to local community partners, providing them with prevention information and educational materials on vaccinations and proper hand washing hygiene.
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