What You Should Know About the Hepatitis A Outbreak

My Assembly office is dedicated to providing you access to the latest updates and resources on California's hepatitis A outbreak to prevent you and your family from contracting the virus.

The virus has now spread to Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties. In an effort to control the outbreak, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to increase the supply of hepatitis A vaccines in California.

Here's information you need to know right now:

What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A virus is highly contagious and infects the liver. It can cause liver disease, lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. In some cases, people can die.

How is it spread? (How did California's current outbreak happen?)
The virus is primarily spread in the United States by ingesting food or water contaminated by feces of an infected person. California's outbreak is being spread person-to-person and through contact with fecally contaminated environments. The majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A during this outbreak have been homeless and/or illicit drug users.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms usually occur quickly and can include the following: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and yellowing of the whites of the eyes/skin (known as jaundice).

Who should get the hepatitis A vaccination?
The San Diego County Public Health Officer strongly recommends the following groups be vaccinated:

  • People who are homeless.
  • Users of illegal drugs.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. They may not be at increased risk of getting hepatitis A but are at increased risk of poor outcomes if infected.
  • People who work with, provide services to, or clean up after the homeless and/or illegal drug users
  • Food handlers who have adult clients. Food handlers are not at increased risk, but if infected can impact large number of people. Children get routine vaccinations for hepatitis A, so vaccination is not recommended for food handlers in schools unless they are in an at-risk group.
  • Anyone who is concerned about hepatitis A virus exposure and wants to be immune. During the present outbreak, hepatitis A vaccine is not being recommended for general public.

In addition to the above groups, the CDC routinely recommends vaccinations for:

  • People with clotting factor disorders.
  • People who conduct laboratory research with the virus.
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common.
  • People in close personal contact with adopted children from countries where hepatitis A is common.

Where can I get vaccinated?
To find a community clinic near you to request the Hepatitis A virus vaccine, here is a list of Public Health Center Immunization Clinic sites in San Diego.