Hepatitis A outbreak in major U.S. city

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Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. The virus is primarily spread when an uninfected (and unvaccinated) person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. The disease is closely associated with unsafe water or food, inadequate sanitation, and poor personal hygiene.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has declared a local outbreak of Hepatitis A after new cases of the disease appear to have been identified.

According to a press release from the department, 10 cases of Hepatitis A have been confirmed among the high-risk homeless population in Los Angeles County.

Of the identified cases, four individuals came from San Diego and Santa Cruz. An additional three other cases were found in a health facility in Los Angeles County; two of those cases appear to have been contracted at the local level.

“Public Health has been proactively preparing for an outbreak for some time and is working diligently to prevent spread in local communities. Our priorities are to keep all our residents both safe and well informed of the situation,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County. “Vaccination is the best protection against Hepatitis A. With this in mind, our outreach teams and clinics are offering [the] free vaccine to persons who are homeless, active drug users, and those who provide services and support to those individuals.”

Unlike Hepatitis B and C, the Hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and fulminant Hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is often fatal. Other possible transmissions include sexual interactions and sharing equipment related to illicit drug use.

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