California’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak could last years, official says

Friday, October 6, 2017
By Paul Martin

Amid prevention and control efforts in California, the CDC says the state’s hepatitis A outbreak could still last months, even years
San Diego and Los Angeles both declared public health emergencies last month
People infected with hepatitis A don’t always show symptoms, and even when they do, it can take weeks for them to appear, helping the disease spread undetected.
There have been 569 diagnosed cases of hepatitis A and 17 deaths linked to the outbreak since it began in November 2016

6 October 2017

California’s hepatitis A outbreak could be years from over, health officials warned on Thursday.

The viral disease has infected at least 569 people, and claimed 17 lives since the outbreak began in San Diego in November 2016.

Public health emergencies have been declared in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, where it has been spreading rapidly, primarily among the cities’ respective homeless populations and drug users.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that it is not uncommon for hepatitis A outbreaks to last over a year, and sometimes they linger even longer.

Monique Foster, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis said on Thursday that ‘it’s not unusual for them to last quite some time — usually over a year, one to two years,’ the Los Angeles Times reported.

The disease is typically transmitted through contaminated food, but the unsanitary living conditions of California’s homeless population have made it possible for the virus to be transferred from feces to mouth and person-to-person.

The affected cities have begun to take measures to stop the spread of hepatitis A, especially among their homeless populations.

They have been offering vaccinations, and installing hand washing stations in neighborhoods where there tend to be a greater number of homeless encampments.

But the CDC’s warning suggests that the disease’s spread could outpace local governments’ preventative efforts.
Hepatitis A can be hard to keep up with because some people show no symptoms, and if they do appear, it may not be for two to six weeks, according to the CDC’s website.

Those affected can spread the virus to others (in the right environmental conditions) up to two weeks before they would develop symptoms.

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