San Diego County health officials declare hepatitis A outbreak public health emergency

San Diego County on Sept. 1 declared the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak a public health emergency, according to NPR.

Wilma Wooten, MD, San Diego County's public health officer and director of public health services, signed a local health emergency declaration to bolster the county's Health and Human Services Agency's ability to request assistance from the state to fund new sanitation measures.

The move comes after the county reported an additional death related to the outbreak Aug. 29, bringing the outbreak's death toll to 15. Additionally, the county increased the total case count to 378, marking a 45-case uptick from Aug. 22. The outbreak has caused 263 hospitalizations since beginning in November 2016.

The outbreak has had an outsized effect on the county's homeless population, so the new sanitation efforts will focus on eliminating viral transmission among this population. Areas with high concentrations of homeless will be equipped with dozens of portable hand-washing stations. Street cleaning crews will also use bleach-spiked water to power-wash contaminated surfaces in these areas. The initiatives are modeled after similar successful efforts conducted in Los Angeles.

"We know that L.A. has had no local cases of hepatitis A related to the strain that we're seeing here in San Diego," Dr. Wooten said, according to NPR. "It makes sense that, if they're doing it there and they haven't had any cases, it could be beneficial here as well."

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include abdominal pain, low-grade fever, nausea, fatigue and jaundice. The virus is highly communicable and is most often spread via contact with fecal matter from an infected individual, which can contaminate food and water.

To read the full NPR report, click here.

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Top 10 infection control stories for August

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