Times of San Diego: Governor Declares State of Emergency Over San Diego Hepatitis Outbreak

Friday, October 13, 2017

As excerpted from Times of San Diego:

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation Friday that allows the state to increase its supply of hepatitis A vaccines in order to control the outbreak that began in San Diego.

“Today’s proclamation gives the California Department of Public Health authority to immediately purchase vaccines directly from manufacturers and distribute them to impacted communities,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

So far there have been ​576 cases and 18 deaths reported, with the vast majority in San Diego County, though Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties have also reported cases.

The majority of patients are homelessness or using illicit drugs, according to the state Department of Health.

“California is currently experiencing the largest person-to-person hepatitis A virus outbreak in the United States since the hepatitis A vaccine became available 22 years ago,” the governor said in his proclamation.

The state Department of Public Health has vaccinated more than 80,000 at-risk people with doses mostly received for free from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but will need more, said Dr. Gil Chavez , an epidemiologist with the department.

“The more that we can vaccinate people at risk the quicker the outbreak will be contained,” he told reporters.

Earlier on Friday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a program under which San Diego Fire-Rescue paramedics can administer vaccines.

The governor’s action drew praise and coincided with calls for more federal help with the outbreak.

“Governor Brown is 100 percent correct,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria, who represents San Diego. “This is an emergency. What started as an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego County has snowballed into an epidemic affecting other areas of California like Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. We must contain this epidemic now.”