Riverside – Riverside County Public Health Officials recently announced that a Riverside man was diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis A connected to the deadly outbreak of hepatitis in San Diego County. Local health officials say the patient has since recovered and does not appear to have spread the illness.
A communicable disease that attacks the liver, Hepatitis A (HAV) can be prevented with a vaccine. The illness is typically contracted by ingesting the virus through contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces from someone infected with the illness.
As previously reported in the Voice, there is currently a serious outbreak in San Diego County. There, more than 500 cases have been reported, including at least 19 deaths. The majority of the illnesses and deaths have occurred among the homeless and IV drug users. Outbreaks have also been reported in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties.
This year, seven cases of HAV were reported in Riverside County, with zero deaths. None of the earlier cases were linked to other outbreaks in the state.
While the most recent Riverside patient has worked in San Diego County, Riverside County health officials said he is not homeless and does not use IV drugs. Health officials submitted blood samples from the patient to the state for genotype testing, and it matched the hepatitis A strain from San Diego County, meaning the source of the infection was in San Diego County.
“There’s no indication there are other related cases currently, but we are continuing to monitor the state and local situation closely,” said Riverside County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser. “If we do detect further cases, the system is already in place to respond quickly and to make sure all our residents stay protected.”
No cases have been reported in San Bernardino County this year and the county is not experiencing an outbreak; however, health officials are taking a proactive approach to prevention by encouraging populations, like the homeless, to get vaccinated.
In late September, San Bernardino County Health Officer Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare in late September said, “Together with our community partners, we are increasing outreach and awareness to promote hepatitis A vaccination. The Department will offer the hepatitis A vaccine to our homeless residents by visiting encampments and shelters and will ensure vaccine availability at our public health clinics. “
According to Kaiser, it is possible to be infected and show no symptoms, but still be contagious. Symptoms of HAV include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea and vomiting. The best way to prevent transmission of the illness is to practice good hygiene, like washing your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, and getting the hepatitis A vaccine, which is available from many medical providers.