San Diego – With local health officials projecting the rise in documented hepatitis A cases to continue, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, County Supervisor Ron Roberts, San Diego County health officials and several civic leaders joined together today as part of a “Vaccination, Sanitation & Education” campaign to urge the public to take appropriate precautions – emphasizing vaccinations for the most at-risk individuals and making sure everyone washes their hands properly – to help stop the spread of the virus.
There are a number of opportunities available for people to get free hepatitis A vaccinations and sanitary kits. If someone is interested in a vaccine, they should call 211 or go to 211sandiego.org. More information on free vaccination clinics is below.
“Our county-lead health teams have been mobilized since March to deal with an unprecedented outbreak that is primarily impacting San Diego County’s homeless and substance abuse communities,” County Supervisor Ron Roberts said. “We need to continue our course of vaccination, sanitation and education efforts recommended by local, state and national public health officials and our own best practices.”
Health officials reminded the public that while the vast majority of people will fully recover from hepatitis A if contracted, people can take very simple steps to help avoid the virus altogether.
Officials say the most effective way to combat hepatitis A is for at-risk people to get vaccinated. At-risk populations include homeless individuals, intravenous drug users, food handlers, janitorial workers and occupations/professions that have regular interactions with at-risk people, such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, homeless service providers and health care professionals.
“This is our community and we are working day and night to take care of it. It is going to require a sustained effort and everyone in San Diego County has a role to play,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “Free hepatitis A vaccines are available thanks to the County of San Diego, American Medical Response and Downtown San Diego Partnership. San Diego is a healthy and safe community, and it will remain so as long as we follow the advice of our medical professionals.”
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral contact, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Contamination can occur when infected persons do not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touch other objects or food items. Surfaces that are frequently touched should be cleaned and sanitized often.
To avoid infection, public health officials recommend people wash their hands regularly after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Hands and arms should be washed with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and then thoroughly rinsed with clean running water and properly dried.
“There are precautions anyone can take to avoid getting hepatitis A,” said Dr. Nick Yphantides, Chief Medical Officer for the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). “For those considered at-risk, they should get vaccinated. And all of us, whether we are considered at-risk or not, need to follow common sanitation habits, like washing hands with soap and warm water.”
According to the County HHSA, the majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A are either homeless, illicit drug users, or both. So far, no common sources of food, beverage or drugs have been identified as the source or contributing factor in the current outbreak.
Dr. William Tseng, past president of the San Diego County Medical Society, said the region’s medical systems and providers are fully engaged in helping address the outbreak.
“Healthcare providers play a critical role in vaccination and patient education,” Dr. Tseng said. “We are committed as a medical community to work with our city and county leaders to aggressively respond to the hepatitis A outbreak.”
In response to the outbreak, several actions have been taken by local officials, including:
- Offering free vaccinations. The County has been offering free vaccinations for the past several months – including sending nurses with vaccines into homeless encampments and other hepatitis A hotspots – with more than 22,000 people vaccinated so far.
- Installing 41 handwashing stations in downtown. The County installed handwashing stations to provide more opportunities for the public to stay clean.
- Sanitizing sidewalks and other public right-of-ways. At the County’s direction, the City last week began regularly sanitizing downtown areas with bleach solution to kill the virus.
- Adding more public restrooms. The City has opened a new 24-hour restroom facility (with four separate stalls) near City Hall and by the close of business today will open another at 1330 G Street, bringing the total number of public bathroom sites to 21 in the downtown area. The operating hours of 14 restrooms in Balboa Park were also recently expanded to 24 hours a day.
The County HHSA offers vaccines at dozens of Community Health Centers and Public Health Centers throughout the region. Here is a complete list of locations.
In addition, the City has partnered with the County to provide free vaccination clinics at public libraries on a regular basis from now through December. Here is a list of dates, times and locations:
- Tuesday, Sept. 19 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
- Wednesday, Sept. 20 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
- Monday, Sept. 25 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Logan Heights Branch Library, 567 S. 28th St.
- Tuesday, Sept. 26 – Noon to 2 p.m. – Skyline Hills Library, 7900 Paradise Valley Rd.
- Friday, Sept. 29 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library, 5148 Market St.
- Monday, Oct. 9 – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Logan Heights Branch Library, 567 S. 28th St.
- Tuesday, Oct. 17 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
- Friday, Oct. 20 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library, 5148 Market St.
- Tuesday, Nov. 21 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
- Tuesday, Dec. 19 – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd.
In partnership with American Medical Response and the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the City will also be providing free vaccines to the public at Golden Hall in the Civic Concourse, 202 C St., from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.