Hepatitis A death toll climbs in San Diego

SAN DIEGO - An additional hepatitis A death in the San Diego region was confirmed over the past week, bringing the toll this year to 19, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Tuesday.

The number of people sickened climbed by 17, to 507, the HHSA reported. Roughly two-thirds of the victims have been homeless and/or users of illicit drugs, according to the agency.

County health authorities traced the outbreak back to November of last year.

Hepatitis A, which attacks the liver, is usually transmitted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the virus has handled or by having sex with an infected person.

The disease doesn't always cause symptoms, but those who do experience fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools and diarrhea.

The county and city of San Diego have taken several steps to address the outbreak, including a stepped-up immunization campaign that has resulted in nearly 76,000 people being vaccinated, the spraying of a sanitizing formula on streets and sidewalks, and the placement of portable hand-washing stations and restrooms in areas where the homeless congregate.

Both jurisdictions have proclaimed a local health emergency.

Because of the outbreak's connection with the homeless, the city has set up a tent camp near Balboa Park, and announced plans to expand a safe parking area in Clairemont for people living in their vehicles, and to set up a new parking area in Murphy Canyon.