By Miriam Raftery
Photo: County News Service
March 1, 2019 (San Diego) -- San Diego County Supervisors voted this week to support Assembly Bill 262, a statewide measure which would strengthen the authority of the County public health officer to direct actions of governments in other local jurisdictions affected by an infectious disease outbreak, such as the hepatitis A outbreak locally in 2017.
The action directs the County’s chief administrative officer to sign on as a sponsor of AB 262, introduced by Assembly members Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez in the state Legislature.
“The safety of our communities is our number one priority,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher who brought the item to the Board. “Moving forward with this provides us the authority necessary to inform and direct other jurisdictions on actions that they may need to take to potentially avoid a disease outbreak or help contain one.”
In March 2017, the County Health and Human Services Agency documented an increase in hepatitis A cases among homeless people and users of illegal drugs. Despite vaccination and sanitation efforts, an increasing number of cases led the County public health officer to declare a local health emergency Sept. 1, 2017. By the time the emergency ended in January 2018, 20 people had died from hepatitis A and 577 people had contracted the virus, which sent 395 San Diegans to the hospital.
In its effort to stop the outbreak, the County and community providers administered 203,858 vaccinations, with about 88.4 percent, or 180,242 vaccinations, given to the at-risk populations.
Early during that epidemic, East County Magazine (ECM) requested public records from the County and learned that cases had been diagnosed in El Cajon. At that time, city officials expressed surprise and said they have not been notified. The County later worked with El Cajon officials to combat spread of the disease, such as through hand-washing stations and power-washing streets.
Ask his opinion of the County supporting AB 262, El Cajon Bill Wells told ECM, “As a general rule I don’t like losing local control; I do however think it makes sense in regard to public health. The county has the infrastructure and the medical expertise where as the cities do not.”