Los Angeles health officials declared a hepatitis A outbreak in the county on Tuesday, days after San Diego County announced a public health emergency due to the virus that killed at least 16 people.
Ten cases have been reported in L.A. County, health officials said. Two of the cases were identified as “community-acquired” and couldn’t be traced back to San Diego County or Santa Cruz, where more than 500 people have been infected in the last few months, FOX11 LA reported.
"We are in the situation of a hepatitis A outbreak...as of [Tuesday] morning," Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors.
Five cases were linked to the outbreaks in San Diego or Santa Cruz. Most of the patients infected are homeless or active users of illegal drugs. However, some health care workers helping those infected have also caught hepatitis A, Ferrer said. She urged health care providers, food service workers and shelter employees to immediately get vaccinated to prevent infection.
"The safest thing you can do if you work with a high-risk population or if you are worried ... is to get vaccinated," Ferrer said.
Children began receiving vaccinations for hepatitis A in 1999, but many adults are not protected against the virus. Officials are urging people to talk to their doctors to ensure they aren’t at risk of contracting the contagious liver disease.
The outbreaks caused city officials to frantically bleach and sanitize streets and areas of downtown San Diego described as "fecally contaminated." San Diego mayoral spokesman Craig Gustafson said the cleanings are scheduled to occur three times a week, every other week.
A state of emergency was declared in San Diego County on Sept. 1, where nearly 450 people have been infected by hepatitis A, FOX5 San Diego reported. Another 70 cases have been identified in Santa Cruz.
Hepatitis A is typically spread by eating contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infected person. The virus isn’t airborne, but causes mild to severe illness, the World Health Organization reported.
"This is a disease that is preventable and we have a vaccine that is readily available,” Ferrer said.