California hepatitis A outbreak has claimed 18 lives
California Governor Jerry Brown announced a state of emergency on Friday to fight an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego, which has claimed 18 lives. The politician stated that the government-funded supply of vaccines was insufficient. His proclamation allows the state to buy the vaccines directly from manufacturers and then distribute them.
The proclamation of a state of emergency allows the authorities to react quickly to the current threat in San Diego. The state will order the vaccines on Monday or Tuesday, so the urgently needed vaccines will be available promptly. The state of California has issued 81,000 federally funded vaccine doses since the outbreak began. More vaccine was purchased, but the supply has so far been inadequate, experts say. The emergency declaration now enables the health authority to buy more vaccine doses and to distribute them to people at risk.
Vaccination is the most effective antidote
Vaccination of people at risk of hepatitis A is the most effective way to prevent the spread of hepatitis A infections, explains the head of the California Department of Public Health Dr. Karen Smith in a press release.
Drug addicts and homeless people are particularly ill
California is currently the largest hepatitis A outbreak in the United States to date, spreading from person to person, rather than through contaminated food, as is usually the case. Most of the sick are homeless or drug users, the experts say.
No deaths outside of San Diego County
There were 576 cases of hepatitis A in California. 490 of these diseases occurred in San Diego County. There were also 71 cases in Santa Cruz County and eight in Los Angeles County. A total of 386 people were hospitalized. In San Diego, the number of people admitted was 342, another 33 people were admitted to Santa Cruz and six in Los Angeles. No deaths have been reported outside of San Diego County.
Countermeasures must be taken urgently
US representative Darrell Issa on Friday called on the federal government to provide emergency funding to stop the spread of hepatitis A. We cannot wait until more communities are affected before important countermeasures are taken, the experts explain.
The eruption started in March in San Diego County
San Diego County reported an outbreak in March that appeared to be related to a growing homeless population. The Santa Cruz district reported the first cases of hepatitis A. The San Diego and Los Angeles districts then also announced local health emergencies in September.
How is hepatitis A usually transmitted?
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted through contaminated food. The only outbreak in the United States in the past 20 years that was larger than the outbreak in California occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003. Back then, more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated spring onions in a restaurant.
Vaccination and hand washing can protect against hepatitis A.
The outbreak in California, however, was caused by strains of the genetic subtype 1B, which is rare in the United States and actually occurs more frequently in the Mediterranean and South Africa. The pathogen is spread through contact with faeces and people with insufficient access to sanitary facilities are therefore at increased risk. In addition to vaccination, frequent hand washing is recommended. Dozens of hand washing stations have been installed in San Diego in recent weeks. In addition, special care has been taken to clean the areas frequented by homeless people. (as)