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Hepatitis A Outbreak Winding Down

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On September 1st, a state of emergency was declared by Dr. Wilma Hooten, the director of public health services for San Diego county’s Health and Human Services Agency. An unprecedented outbreak of Hepatitis A was found to be affecting the homeless population of San Diego. Since the start of the outbreak, 577 people had fallen ill to the virus, with 396 people requiring hospitalization due to infection. In addition, 20 people who contracted the virus have since died.

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The Board of Supervisors for San Diego county originally extended the public health emergency for the virus, but due to careful vigilance, the emergency is beginning to wind down, due to declining number of cases. Officials have confirmed that all the proper processes and procedures have been put in place in order to begin winding down the emergency that was declared in September.

So far, the board is reviewing the need for any possibility of continuing the emergency protocol, but health officials are confident the worst is over. In November, the number of cases dropped to just 21, and in December, the number declines to 7 cases. This marks the first time the outbreak has slowed down, as the Public Health Services department has been investigating it, while doing whatever they can to stop it. Some of the challenges the department faced is the long incubation period the virus takes before those infected begin to exhibit symptoms.

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes infection of the liver. It is highly contagious, and can result in the development of liver disease, with the illness lasting anywhere from a weeks to months. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with objects or food that an infected person has touched, through sexual contact with an infected person, or the sharing of intravenous needles. Due to poor hygiene and high levels of drug abuse, the virus had spread through San Diego’s homeless communities fairly quickly, prompting a public health emergency.

While the outbreak seems to be over in San Diego, it seems to have spread to Utah, where a a few infected workers may have exposed customers at a restaurant and convenience store in the Salt Lake City area. All of the cases of the virus have since been linked that began in August, which was the same time the San Diego outbreak was in full swing. After several tests, health officials were able to link it the outbreak that originated in San Diego. So far, Utah has confirmed 152 cases of Hepatitis A, and is continuing to climb. Despite this, there have been no deaths reported yet.

While the outbreak in San Diego seems to be over, it is to prudent to stay vigilant with your personal hygiene. Always wash your hands after using any public restrooms. Cleaning your home or business should be a routine thing, especially for bathrooms, whether they are for public or personal use. A bleach or any chlorine-based disinfectant will work best in sanitizing these surfaces. Make sure to properly mix the bleach with water, and quickly rinse the surfaces after a minute or so of contact. Wear rubber gloves and a mask when cleaning to protect yourself from noxious fumes.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind, I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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