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Hepatitis A Outbreak in Los Angeles County

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently declared a Hepatitis A outbreak among individuals who are homeless and/or use illicit drugs. According to recent health reports, the hepatitis A virus is primarily being transmitted person-to-person through close contact or through contact with fecally contaminated environment.

Hepatitis A can also spread by:

  • Touching objects/eating food that a person with hepatitis A infection has handled
  • Participating in sexual activities with someone who has hepatitis A infection
  • Sharing needles, or any drug-related items¬†¬†

To avoid spreading of hepatitis A virus, LAC DPH suggests that residents of LA County protect themselves by getting vaccinated. The vaccine is recommended for persons who are homeless and/or who use illicit drugs and anyone who comes in frequent close contact with the homeless or drug-using populations. Another recommended method of prevention is to regularly wash hands with soap and water, making sure to scrub vigorously for 20 seconds.

Due to the rising concern about hepatitis A, LAC DPH has adopted quick response by:

  • Investigating possible cases of hepatitis A infection in LA communities.
  • Notifying medical providers to increase awareness and detection of hepatitis A infection
  • Increasing awareness and encouraging hepatitis A vaccination by reaching out to homeless service providers

LAC DPH also recommends that physicians should:

  • Suspect HAV infection in patients who have close contact with or who are homeless/intermittently homeless and/or who use illicit drugs who have abrupt onset of prodromal symptoms (nausea, anorexia, fever, malaise, or abdominal pain) and jaundice or elevated serum aminotransferase levels.
  • Do not discharge patients to the street who are diagnosed with HAV until at least a week after the onset of jaundice.
  • Provide HAV vaccine to persons who are homeless and/or who use illicit drugs and to persons who have frequent close contact with the homeless or drug-using populations.
  • Promptly report all suspect and confirmed HAV cases to the LAC DPH Morbidity Unit by calling 888-397-3993.
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