3 dead in San Diego County hepatitis A outbreak

A hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County has affected 80 people as of May 1, and three of them have died, according to a county public health report.

The county has been monitoring elevated hepatitis A levels in the community since November 2016, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sixty-six of those infected have been hospitalized. County health officials have been conducting vaccination clinics and are still evaluating cases, and a common drug, drink or food source related to the outbreak has yet to be identified.

Most of the infections have occurred among San Diego's homeless population.

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"We are partnering with the community to ensure the people most at risk — particularly the homeless — have access to the hepatitis A vaccine," said Wilma Wooten, MD, a public health officer with San Diego County. "We've increased our outreach to vulnerable populations and have worked with organizations to host vaccination clinics and make information available. We are strongly encouraging people who are at risk to check with their healthcare providers and get vaccinated for hepatitis A."

Hepatitis A is highly contagious and is typically acquired when an individual comes into contact with fecal matter from an infected individual via person-to-person contact or the consumption of contaminated food or water. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include abdominal pain, a low-grade fever, nausea, fatigue and jaundice.

Rates of hepatitis A infections in the U.S. have dropped dramatically since a vaccine was introduced in 1995. An estimated 2,500 people in American had hepatitis A in 2014, and 76 of them died, according to the most recent data available from the CDC.

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