Combating the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego

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The outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego has led to 15 deaths and 279 hospitalizations.
The outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego has led to 15 deaths and 279 hospitalizations.

A 3-part strategy has been devised to combat the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego which has led to 15 deaths and 279 hospitalizations. On September 1 the situation was declared an emergency by San Diego County, who gave the city 5 days to respond with a plan to halt the outbreak.

The 3-part plan focuses on immunization, sanitation and education with most of the efforts focused on the homeless population who are the most at-risk population. According to the County of San Diego Communications Office approximately 65% of hepatitis A cases have been among the homeless, those who use illicit drugs or a combination of both factors.

Forty handwashing stations have been set-up in areas where large amounts of homeless individuals congregate and plans are afoot to add more. Streets will be power-washed by crews using bleach-spiked water to clean what, in a letter the County called a “fecally contaminated environment”. The County also asked the city to “Immediately expand access to public restrooms and wash stations within the city limits that are adjacent to at-risk populations.” 

New vaccination clinics will be opened at public libraries to bolster the existing mobile vaccination teams, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Additionally, 109 ‘foot teams' of nurses have gone into areas of heavy homelessness to offer vaccinations. Increasing vaccination coverage has been San Diego County's number 1 preventative strategy however, so far rates of infection have not slowed. So far 19,000 have been immunized.

Thousands of individual hygiene kits have also been distributed, containing hand sanitizers, cleaning wipes, and clinic information. An outreach campaign was started in August in the city's bus stations.

Reference

  1. San Diego Hepatitis A Outbreak, 2017 [press release]. Health & Human Services Agency. September 2017.


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