Southern California is being rocked by an out of control outbreak of incredibly contagious Hepatitis A, and it shows no signs of stopping. Learn more about the situation and the virus here.
1. It’s spread fecal-orally in several different ways
Hepatitis A is an extremely contagious viral disease that can become deadly if not treated in time. The virus is spread between human contact easily. It’s origins are in exposure to fecal matter orally. This includes eating fruit contaminated by fecal matter in the water supply where it’s grown, as shown by an outbreak traced back to a fruit stand in Los Angeles. Hepatitis A can also be contracted when someone goes swimming or surfing in the ocean directly after it has rained, as sewage water gets washed out to sea. Once infected, it’s easy for a person to spread it through skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms of acute hepatitis A include fever, malaise, dark urine, anorexia, nausea and abdominal discomfort, followed by jaundice. If left untreated, the disease will continue to attack the liver and lead to death.
2. It’s being spread between counties in Southern California
San Diego was the first county to experience a Hep A outbreak in California, with 16 people now dead and over 400 more infected with the virus as of September 20. The homeless population has been hit the hardest. City officials have declared a public health emergency and are battling the virus by bleaching sidewalks and benches, but it may not be enough. “This outbreak could last for at least another six months,” said Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego’s chief medical officer, told CBS News. The outbreak has also hit Los Angeles, with two new cases reported. The virus was detected at a street fruit vendor in Lancaster, according to the LA County Department of Public Health. Anyone who bought fruit there from August 15 to 22 could be infected and need to get tested.
3. It’s now reaching Northern California and Arizona
Santa Cruz and other counties in North California are also reporting cases of Hep A. Santa Cruz county generally sees 40 to 60 cases of Hepatitis A annually, but now have 69 infected people on their hands. More counties in NorCal are affected, and their are cases cropping up in Arizona. The state directly neighbors California, and many Arizonans come to SoCal for vacation.
4. It can be prevented with a vaccine
Health officials all over California are urging citizens to get vaccinated before the virus spreads even further. While children have routinely been vaccinated since 1999, many adults never received the shot, and could be in danger of contracting the virus. “The safest thing you can do if you work with a high-risk population or if you are worried, is to get vaccinated,” said LACDPH director Barbara Ferrer. It may not be that easy, though, says Yphantides. “It’s not as easy as just saying, ‘Hey, get vaccinated,’” he said. “The nature of some of these members of this population are such that they are inaccessible, and frankly, some of them have their reluctances in dealing with government.”
5. Some populations are more at-risk than others.
Health care providers, homeless individuals, food-service workers, and homeless shelter employees are especially at risk for contracting the illness. Interestingly, surfers are also in danger if they hit the water in a contaminated area.
HollywoodLifers, did you learn something new about Hepatitis A? Let us know!