By Tom Christensen, County of San Diego Communications
March 8, 2018 (San Diego) -- A woman with a probable case of hepatitis A may have exposed inmates at the Vista Detention Facility and Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee, the County Health and Human Services Agency reported today.
HHSA, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department, recommend hepatitis A vaccination for anyone who was an inmate at the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility anytime from February 20 through March 1, or the Vista facility February 19-20. Those who are already vaccinated or who have had hepatitis A do not need vaccination.
“The jail population often comes with significant health issues, and in this case, the individual was exposed to hepatitis A in the community and entered the jail infectious,” said Dr. Alfred Joshua, chief medical officer for the Sheriff’s Department. “After leaving detention, the woman started to have symptoms and was hospitalized.
“We are offering vaccines to those who may have been exposed in the community and are still in custody. Our normal cleaning procedures ensure that there is no ongoing possibility of exposure in the jails.”
To date, the Sheriff’s Department and Public Health have vaccinated more than 8,000 inmates in County detention facilities. In addition, all employees assigned to the facilities have been offered vaccinations as well.
San Diego County has an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A. Since the start of the outbreak, 584 cases have been reported, including 20 deaths. The majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A during this outbreak have been homeless and/or illicit drug users.
“Hepatitis A is contagious, but may be prevented with vaccination when given within 14 days of exposure,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Anyone who may have been exposed can get the hepatitis A vaccine at no cost at any County public health center.”
The hepatitis A vaccine is also available at many local clinics and pharmacies. Call 2-1-1 San Diego to locate a convenient County public health center or clinic.
Hepatitis A symptoms include sudden abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, headache, dark urine, light-colored bowel movements, and vomiting, followed by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Symptoms may appear from 15 to 50 days after exposure, with the average time being about one month. Sickness can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. In rare cases of hepatitis A infection, those with a pre-existing severe illness or a compromised immune system can progress to liver failure.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. Due to the current outbreak, the following groups are strongly recommended to get the hepatitis A vaccine:
- People who are homeless
- Users of illegal drugs
- Men who have sex with men
- People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. They may not be at increased risk of getting hepatitis A but are at increased risk of poor outcomes if infected
- People who work with, provide services to, or clean up after the homeless and/or illegal drug users
- Food handlers who have adult clients. Food handlers are not at increased risk, but if infected can impact large number of people. Children get routine vaccinations for hepatitis A, so vaccination is not recommended for food handlers in schools unless they are in an at-risk group
- Anyone who is concerned about hepatitis A virus exposure and wants to be immune. During the present outbreak, hepatitis A vaccine is not being recommended for the general public
In addition to the above groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely recommends vaccinations for:
- People with clotting factor disorders
- People who conduct laboratory research with the virus
- Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- People in close personal contact with adopted children from countries where hepatitis A is common
For more information about hepatitis A, visit the County’s hepatitis A webpage.