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2017 Hepatitis A Outbreak in San Diego

Message from Student Health & Counseling Services Director,Karen Nicholson, MD, M.P.H.

According to the San Diego (SD) County Public Health Services Division website, the department has been investigating a local Hepatitis A outbreak since early 2017. The majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A are homeless and/or illicit drug users, although some cases have been neither. The outbreak is being spread person to person and through contact with a fecally contaminated environment. No common sources of food, beverage or drugs have been identified that have contributed to this outbreak, though investigation is ongoing. Regular and frequent updates regarding cases and any applicable recommendations are received/reviewed and passed on to appropriate offices for our campus community.

According to Dr. Wilma Wooten, SD County Public Health Officer, targeted vaccination efforts are to individuals in the risk groups detailed below. Universal vaccinations are not presently indicated.

For students involved in service learning, internships and/or clinical practice, please contact your community partner or site lead to inquire about your need for vaccination based on your risk.

Vaccine recommendations are developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the SD County Public Health Officer. They presently include:

  • Persons traveling to or working in countries that have high or intermediate rates of hepatitis A
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Users of illicit injection and non-injection drugs
  • Persons who have chronic liver disease (i.e., cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C);
  • Persons who have clotting-factor disorders
  • Household members, and other close personal contacts, of individuals from countries with high rates of hepatitis A
  • Homeless individuals, including those who are transiently housed in shelters, those in single-room occupancy facilities with shared restrooms, and any person living without shelter
  • Individuals who have close contact with homeless and illicit drug users or their environment via employment, volunteer activities, etc. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Staff at homeless service providers and substance use treatment agencies
    • Public safety and emergency medical services workers
    • Healthcare personnel
    • Sanitation and janitorial workers
    • Food handlers in San Diego County catering to adult populations.

Where can I get vaccinated?

  • Contact your primary care provider - under the Affordable Care Act. This vaccine is covered as preventive care, without deductible or copay. Adult doses (age 19 and older) are also covered for those individuals with Medi-Cal insurance.
  • Call 2-1-1 to find a community clinic near you to request the hepatitis A virus vaccine.
  • Click here to see a list of community health centers.
  • Click here for a list of Public Health Center immunization clinic sites.

Additional information can be found at the county’s website here or the Health and Human Services Agency Hepatitis A Fact Sheet.