SAN DIEGO — The death toll from an outbreak of hepatitis A that has stricken mostly homeless people in the San Diego region has climbed to eight, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Friday.
All of the victims were already dealing with medical issues, according to the HHSA.
Health officials said the outbreak has sickened 275 people, including 194 people who have been hospitalized, with 70 percent being homeless or users of illicit drugs. About 20 percent also had hepatitis C. Health officials first called attention to the outbreak in early May.
“We continue to stress that people who are at risk should get vaccinated and people need to be vigilant about washing their hands after going to the bathroom,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “We are continuing to evaluate cases, but so far public health investigators have not identified any common food, drink or drug source as the contributing cause to this outbreak.”
County health officials are working with community organizations to conduct vaccination clinics for people who are at risk for the disease. The partners include homeless services providers, community health clinics, faith- based community organizations, substance abuse treatment providers, hospital emergency departments, jails and probation.
Teams of public health nurses also continue to go into the community to offer homeless people vaccinations and education about the outbreak.
Hepatitis A vaccine is available at many doctors’ offices and clinics and at some retail pharmacies. Those without health insurance can get vaccinated at county Public Health Centers.
According to the county, symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice — yellowing of the skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than two months.
The disease can cause liver failure and death, and some people can be ill for up to six months.