San Diego County health officials have reported the 20th fatality linked to the local outbreak of hepatitis A that has affected 536 people this year.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Image/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

County officials say the outbreak has primarily affected homeless and/or illicit drug users.

Vaccination efforts are underway targeting at-risk groups by County public health and our community health care partners and officials say that more than 90,000 people have been vaccinated. Two shots of the hepatitis A virus vaccine are recommended. The vaccine may be given as a twin vaccine against both hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A: California governor declares state of emergency

Due to the current outbreak, the San Diego County Public Health Officer strongly recommends the following groups be vaccinated with the hepatitis A vaccine:

  • People who are homeless.
  • Users of illegal drugs.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. They may not be at increased risk of getting hepatitis A but are at increased risk of poor outcomes if infected.
  • People who work with, provide services to, or clean up after the homeless and/or illegal drug users
  • Food handlers who have adult clients. Food handlers are not at increased risk, but if infected can impact large number of people. Children get routine vaccinations for hepatitis A, so vaccination is not recommended for food handlers in schools unless they are in an at-risk group.
  • Anyone who is concerned about hepatitis A virus exposure and wants to be immune. During the present outbreak, hepatitis A vaccine is not being recommended for general public.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus is highly contagious. It can cause liver disease, lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. In some cases, people can die.