Health officials declare hepatitis A outbreak in L.A. County

Los Angeles County public health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak Tuesday, days after an emergency was declared in San Diego, where at least 16 people have died of the highly contagious virus.

Case numbers are still small, with only 10 people infected as part of the outbreak, said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. San Diego, by comparison, has seen almost 450 people become infected.

Los Angeles County health officials said they had already counted eight infected patients, but those cases had been linked to the outbreak in San Diego and another in Santa Cruz County. But Tuesday, they said they had diagnosed two people who appear to have been infected locally, triggering the outbreak declaration.

The two new cases involved homeless people who had not traveled to a place with an outbreak, Ferrer said. She said the department would continue its outreach to the region’s homeless community, encouraging vaccinations and other sanitary practices to head off a broader outbreak.

Of the eight earlier cases, five patients had recently traveled to San Diego or Santa Cruz, where they were likely exposed, officials said. Three other people were infected at a healthcare facilty one of those five was being treated.

“The outbreak label isn’t meant to scare people,” said County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting. “It isn’t suddenly that we’re rife with hep A cases here.”


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