A deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that has claimed 18 lives in San Diego County in recent months, mostly among the rapidly-growing homeless population, has spread to Los Angeles.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune:
Los Angeles County health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak Tuesday, days after a public health emergency was announced in San Diego County, where at least 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus.
Case numbers are still small in L.A. County, with only 10 people infected as part of the outbreak, said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. By comparison, almost 450 people have contracted the virus in San Diego.
Ferrer said the department is ramping up prevention efforts locally so more people don’t get sick. San Diego’s outbreak has already spread to Santa Cruz, where 69 people have been diagnosed.
Officials say homeless people in California are most at risk, because the virus appears to be moving from person to person within that community. People become infected with hepatitis A, which affects the liver, by ingesting the feces of someone who’s infected, often through contaminated food or sexual contact.
Local independent television station KTLA 5 reports that Los Angeles County plans to attack the problem with vaccinations:
L.A. County Interim Health Officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said officials are already working to provide free vaccinations to at-risk populations.
“Vaccination is the best protection against Hepatitis A,” he said in the press release. “With this in mind, our outreach teams and clinics are offering free vaccine to persons who are homeless, active drug users, and those who provide services and support to those individuals.”
San Diego City and County have put aside their differences and are working together to stop the deadly outbreak there. They have tried vaccinations, mobile bathrooms, hand-washing stations, opening up restaurants, steam cleaning the streets, erecting massive tents, and other tactics. Nothing has worked to slow the spread of the disease, which causes inflammation of the liver.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the disease may have reached L.A. via “a food vendor in Lancaster.”