It looks like the recent Hepatitis outbreak among the homeless in San Diego has made its way to the Imperial Valley, through a very direct route.
The Imperial County Public Health Department reported last Friday that public health staff is investigating a suspect Hepatitis A case in Imperial County. The individual is receiving treatment at a local facility. The individual, who is middle-aged and homeless, had previously resided in the downtown area of San Diego before arriving in Imperial County last week. The case doesn’t appear to have been infected in Imperial County. Due to confidentiality issues, no further identifying information will be shared. Public health staff on Friday started vaccinating those that were in close contact with the individual to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A in the community.
Dr. Stephen Munday, County Health Officer, stated, “As a result of the Hepatitis A outbreak in California, public health staff has been working closely with our medical community and partner agencies to monitor the situation and be ready to respond to a hepatitis A case in Imperial County. Our staff have responded quickly to the report of a suspect case and have started vaccinating individuals who may have been exposed in order to prevent spread of Hepatitis A in our community.”
As a prevention effort, public health staff started offering the Hepatitis A vaccine to the homeless in Imperial County in August of this year. Hepatitis A vaccination events have been held in Calexico and El Centro and a third is scheduled for the Niland area next week. The vaccine is also recommended for those using illicit injection or non-injection drugs, and persons who have frequent close contact with the homeless and have no history of vaccination or immunity to Hepatitis A, such as those who work in public safety, homeless shelters, jails, food pantries, drug rehabilitation or behavioral services programs.
Volunteers with some of the local organizations that help the homeless have reportedly begun getting vaccinated against the disease.
Hepatitis A vaccine is available with local healthcare providers. For additional information about Hepatitis A contact the Public Health Epidemiology Program at 442-265-1350.