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News Updates

Hepatitis A Emergency Declaration Ends

The County of San Diego has ended the hepatitis A public health emergency declared Sept. 1, 2017, following four weeks with no new cases associated with the local outbreak. 

County officials stressed that ending the emergency declaration does not mean the outbreak is over. County public health officials will continue to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health on the efforts that were taken to control the outbreak. 

At a Glance

  • The County of San Diego declared a public health emergency last year due to a local outbreak of hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis a is generally considered milder than the flu but can be very serious for those with compromised immune systems.
  • The City of Carlsbad mobilized a response team to help limit the spread of the virus in Carlsbad. 

Last fall, the Carlsbad City Council approved an "urgency ordinance" that allowed after-hours access to six handwashing stations and three existing portable restrooms with handwashing stations in city parks. The county will remove the six hand washing stations it had provided at city parks, but the three city-maintained portable restrooms and handwashing stations, which have been in place for years, will remain. Those are at Cannon Park, Hosp Grove Park and Zone 5 Park. 

City parks are closed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The urgency ordinance, which expired concurrently with the end of the county emergency declaration, had allowed access during these times solely for use of available handwashing stations and portable restrooms. 

In response to the hepatitis A emergency, the City of Carlsbad also placed three portable restrooms with handwashing stations in the Village area. To date, they have not been heavily used, according to city staff, but they will remain in place pending further evaluation of the need. 

The County of San Diego took the lead in containing the Hepatitis A outbreak focusing on vaccination, sanitation and education. The City of Carlsbad assembled an incident response team to coordinate with county health officials and take additional steps to protect public health in Carlsbad, including: 

  • Working with the county to provide free vaccinations for those most at risk in the community. About 1,500 vaccinations were administered in Carlsbad.
  • Increased cleaning of city operated restrooms and ensured they remained well stocked and in good working order.
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection of public places, as needed.
  • Requested that the county place handwashing stations in city parks.
  • Placed three portable restrooms with hand washing stations in the Village area.
  • Produced and distributed informational materials about hepatitis A.
  • Made contact with those most at risk of infection, including older adults, those with compromised immune systems, and people who are homeless and lack access to proper sanitation. 

In all, three hepatitis A cases associated with the county outbreak have been reported in Carlsbad. Countywide 577 cases have been reported, with 395 hospitalizations and 20 deaths. From May to September 2017 there was an average of 84 cases reported each month. In December, that number dropped to eight cases. No cases with symptom-onset in 2018 have been reported. 

Hepatitis A is a virus affecting the liver. Its symptoms, which are similar to the flu, typically last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Most people who get hepatitis A recover completely. People with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or C, and other health conditions are at increased risk of developing a severe illness, including death, if they are infected with hepatitis A virus. 

The hepatitis A virus is transmitted when human excrement from a person who has been infected by hepatitis A is ingested by another person. The hepatitis A virus can live for months in even a microscopic amount of feces outside the body (on doorknobs and park benches for example). That’s why it’s so important that people wash their hands properly after using the bathroom and before eating. It’s not spread through coughing (airborne) or contact with blood or other bodily fluids, only feces. 

More information
Nov. 14, 2017, staff report regarding urgency ordinance 
Hepatitis A FAQs

Public contact for homeless concerns

January 26, 2018