A Deadly Hepatitis a Outbreak Threatens to Become an Epidemic for California

The following story was originally published here.

California is facing a serious problem from an unlikely source. The source is the hepatitis A strain. Around 264 people have been put in the hospital due to symptoms, and the majority, around 70 percent, are homeless. The outbreak actually began in November of 2016, but experts are speculating this could become a statewide epidemic.

According to the Guardian, medical experts are saying this is the deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A the United States has seen in decades. In addition to a large number of people hospitalized, there have been at least 14 deaths confirmed to be the cause of the hepatitis strain. The victims are mostly homeless people who do not have access to a restroom whenever they need it. To compound the problem, the best way to combat the spread of hepatitis A is hand-washing.

A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the seriousness of the outbreak by informing the public the number of cases has surpassed all other big outbreaks, and the spokesperson was quoted saying this hepatitis A outbreak is, “likely the most deaths in an outbreak in the US in the past 20 years,” which has been the period of time the CDC has been operating their electronic reporting system. The last big outbreak was in 2013, and the source was contaminated pomegranate seeds. It resulted in the hospitlization of 69 people spanning 10 states. Before that, there was a huge outbreak in 2003 because of tainted salsa from a restaurant in Pennsylvania, and three people died with 124 people being hospitalized.

Hepatitis A targets the liver and impairs its function. It causes severe joint pain, fatigue, jaundice and death in some cases. It is spread through water or food tainted by fecal matter. The incubation period for the disease is fairly long at around 28 days to a full month, so it can spread quickly because during the incubation period infected people present no symptoms. Once the incubation period is over, symptoms will come on strong and fast, and it hits people at risk the hardest like the elderly, alcoholics and people already worn down like the homeless.

According to Fox News, San Diego has given special permission to paramedics to administer the vaccine to more the more at-risk people in certain areas of the city. They cannot deliver it on the spot though. There will be special vaccination events, and paramedics will only be able to administer the vaccine under a nurses’ supervision. It still allows for more people to deliver more vaccines because it could be years before the outbreak has been quelled. Other than the vaccination, hand-washing and good hygiene are the best ways to stop the spread, which is something the homeless struggle with. The source of the outbreak has not been determined yet, but outbreaks usually start with people eating contaminated food.