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Hepatitis A Outbreak Now In LA County

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The hepatitis A outbreak that plagued San Diego and Santa Cruz counties in recent weeks has moved to Los Angeles county, in two “community-acquired” cases, health officials say.

Barbara Ferrer, Public Health Department Director, told the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, “We are in the situation of a hepatitis A outbreak as of this morning.”

While most hepatitis A cases have been determined in homeless people or drug users, others include health care facility workers who have been working with patients, the director added.

Ferrer encouraged anyone now working with patients and individuals at high risk of contracting hepatitis A, such as health care providers, food-service workers and employees at shelters, to get vaccinated against the disease, CBS News reports.

San Diego County declared a public health emergency earlier this month because of an outbreak that killed 16 people and put 300 more in the hospital since November. The county’s homeless population was hit the hardest. In Santa Cruz County, 69 people were confirmed to have hepatitis A in a smaller outbreak last April.

Dr. Sharon Balter, chief of the communicable disease control program, said, “The reason we’re particularly concerned (now) is because we have an outbreak in San Diego and we have an outbreak in Santa Cruz, and the contagion is in a population not easily contained.”

The liver disease was first determined in a street fruit vendor in Lancaster, according to the LACDPH. Anyone who purchased fruit from the vendor could have contracted the virus.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through contact with infected feces, skin contact or food, health officials said. Symptoms include fever, anorexia, nausea, stomach pains, dark urine, and jaundice.

Getting a hepatitis A vaccine is the best protection, health officials reiterate. Ferrer emphasized, “The safest thing you can do if you work with a high-risk population or if you are worried, is to get vaccinated.”


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