The Hepatitis A Outbreak which has killed at least 16 people in San Diego and sickened hundreds more has now surfaced in LA County.
Doug McIntyre of Los Angeles’ KABC McIntyre in the Morning reported 10 people confirmed thus far infected in LA county, primarily affecting the homeless population. This number is expected to rise.
The Hepatitis A virus is spread by contaminated feces, and many homeless persons lack access to public restrooms and showers.
San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten suggested the recent plastic bag ban might have contributed to the outbreak as homeless individuals would use the plastic bag to excrete their waste into and then toss. Wooten states, “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.”
Hygiene kits have been dispensed containing plastic bags, sanitizer, bottled water, wet wipes and feminine sanitary products.
Without the plastics bags, they are forced to poop without an easy means of clean up, leaving contaminated feces on the sidewalks, streets and encampments.
City officials in both San Diego and Los Angeles have been spraying the streets with bleach-spiked water.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a disease that affects the liver. Its caused by a virus (Hepatitis A virus) that is most commonly ingested. Poor hand washing and/or contaminated food are likely culprits. Its transmitted by the fecal-oral route, where food or drink contaminated by fecal matter enters another person’s GI tract. Sexual transmission of Hepatitis A has been reported during activities involving oral-anal sex.
Hepatitis A can live outside the body for months, so unclean dining areas can be contaminated and transfer to food.
Those who are immunosuppressed run the risk of dying from the infection.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include:
Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes
Clay – looking stools
Loss of appetite
What is the treatment for Hepatitis A?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Most hepatitis A infections resolve on their own.
We usually recommend rest, fluids, and offer medications to help with nausea and vomiting.
For liver injury we avoid medications and alcohol that can worsen liver damage. The liver will usually recover within months after hepatitis A infection.
There are vaccines for Hepatitis A included in the childhood vaccination schedule. Those older who weren’t vaccinated as a child can get the vaccine from their local provider or health department. Many states require all health care and food workers to be vaccinated.
The best form of prevention however is good hand washing, dining area hygiene, and cooking food thoroughly.