Public Health Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak

 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A infections. Public Health has identified five cases among people experiencing homelessness since mid-March 2024. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can be spread from person-to-person even before they feel sick. The infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus, which is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Individuals that are unhoused are at higher risk for contracting hepatitis A infection because they often have limited access to handwashing and toileting facilities.

Public Health is offering free hepatitis A vaccines to people experiencing homelessness in encampments and at interim housing sites where there is risk of potential exposure. Hepatitis A vaccine is typically a two dose vaccine series that is safe and highly effective in preventing infection. Additionally, previously unvaccinated people can receive hepatitis A vaccine soon after exposure to protect against developing the infection.

Public Health continues to monitor for and immediately investigate suspect hepatitis A cases. Public Health is working closely with healthcare providers to request that they remain vigilant for hepatitis A. Public Health is also working with organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness to educate the community about the increase in hepatitis A, encourage people with symptoms of hepatitis A seek medical care, and to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

Although the current risk to the public is low, Public Health recommends residents take the following actions to help prevent the spread of disease:

· Check if you have been vaccinated for hepatitis A. If you haven't, contact your medical provider to determine if you should be vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A.

· Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and preparing food and after using the bathroom.

About Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Symptoms of hepatitis include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine, or yellow eyes/skin. Although rare, hepatitis A can cause death in some people. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through eating contaminated food, or through close contact with a person while infectious and a person with the virus can transmit illness up to two weeks prior to the onset of symptoms.

Areas with poor access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services are high risk for experiencing outbreaks.

For more information on hepatitis A or locations for vaccination, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov.

 

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