Deadly hepatitis A outbreak spreading through California

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A state of emergency has been declared in California on Friday, October 13, 2017 due to hepatitis A outbreak that has so far killed at least 18 people. The proclamation allows the state to increase its supply of vaccines for the highly contagious virus.

A large hepatitis A outbreak is ongoing in California, the California Department of Public Health reports. The majority of patients in this outbreak report experiencing homelessness and/or using illicit drugs, particularly in the setting of limited sanitation.  

There are currently 491 cases reported in San Diego County which has been dealing with the deadly outbreak for more than six months. 71 cases are reported in Santa Cruz County and 12 in Los Angeles County.

Although Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted through contaminated food, this outbreak is being spread person-to-person and through contact with a fecally contaminated environment, primarily among homeless community.

In response to the outbreak, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an emergency proclamation that allows the state to increase its supply of hepatitis A vaccines.

"Immunizations from the federal vaccine program have been distributed to at-risk populations in affected areas, but additional supplies are needed," Brown's office said.

Today’s proclamation gives the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) authority to immediately purchase vaccines directly from manufacturers and distribute them to impacted communities.

The only US outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant.

Featured image: Los Angeles County (file photo).

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