Health Care

California declares state of emergency over deadly hepatitis A outbreak

The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has scarcely released a statement declaring a state of emergency over the deadly hepatitis A plague that has averred 18 lives in San Diego.

Brown said the federally-funded supply of vaccines is inadequate.

California is expected to place an order for more hepatitis A vaccines after Gov.

"Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A infection during an outbreak", said California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. Today's declaration allows CDPH to immediately purchase additional vaccines directly from manufacturers and coordinate distribution to people at greatest risk in affected areas. The state says the majority affected are homeless, using drugs or both.

San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak added another death Tuesday, pushing the total to 19 as the number of confirmed cases passed 500.

As of October 13, health officials tallied 490 hepatitis A cases in San Diego County, 71 cases in Santa Cruz County, 13 cases in Los Angeles County and seven cases in other parts of the state, according to the LA Times.

With last week's total number of cases at 490, the latest reported increase to 501 may make it seem as if the outbreak continues to grow, but, because of the way that the public health department tallies the outbreak's toll, it is hard to say whether that's the case.

So, the latest bump in cases is simply the health department moving suspected cases into the confirmed column when they get test results, which can take several weeks, back from the CDC.

Hepatitis A, which attacks the liver, is usually transmitted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the virus has handled or by having sex with an infected person.

To this end, the San Diego County Health and Human Services has made major efforts to improve sanitation, such as installing handwashing stations in areas where high-risk individuals are known to congregate, updating street sanitation protocols, and distributing personal hygiene kits.

Santa Cruz County reported its first cases the following month, and San Diego and Los Angeles counties declared local health emergencies in September. It has further revealed the source of outbreak to be as the strains of the 1B genetic subtype, which is more common across the Mediterranean belt.

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