CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A person at the Castle Park Head Start program in Chula Vista was diagnosed with Hepatitis A, and the county of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday that parents and staff are being notified of potential exposure.
Staff and children who ate breakfast at the facility at 1375 Third Ave. between Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 are at risk for contracting Hepatitis A. The illness is usually spread when someone ingests microscopic amounts of fecal matter from contact with food, drinks or objects contaminated by someone who is infected, according to the HHSA.
“The risk to the public is low, but anyone who was at the Head Start who was notified about the exposure should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer.
“Anyone who has been immunized with Hepatitis A vaccine or previously had the disease is considered protected from the virus, but we encourage anyone who has not had the vaccine and who may have been exposed to contact their health care provider to discuss options for prevention,” she said.
Wooten said the early signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A appear two to seven weeks after exposure and commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, light color stools, pain in the upper right abdomen, and yellowness to the eyes or skin — a condition called jaundice.
The illness varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting four to six weeks or longer, according to the HHSA. Some people, especially children, may not develop jaundice or any symptom at all, but mildly ill people can still be highly infectious and should consult a physician.
The HHSA said Hepatitis A vaccine is routine for infants when they reach their first birthday, and is the preferred preventive treatment for healthy persons up to 40 years old, and may be considered in older patients because it provides long-term protection.
Individuals can obtain Hepatitis A immunizations through their primary care physicians. Children without health insurance can obtain the vaccine at County Public Health Centers.