Earlier this week, CNN reported the new number of people sickened with Hepatitis A in San Diego County, California. A staggering 16 deaths and 421 cases were reported between November and September. Since Monday, that number has increased to 17 deaths and 461 cases, with an 18th death being investigated.
Out of the 421 people that CNN reported were sickened with Hepatitis A, at least 292 of them have been hospitalized. According to the World Health Organization, Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause extreme illness.
While the virus is rare, Hepatitis A has been infecting San Diego County citizens at an "unprecedented rate." Over the past five years, the entire county only recorded 28 infections per year on average.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, a public health officer and director of public health services for the county's Health and Human Services Agency, made a statement about the troubling statistics.
She said, "This is an outbreak of unprecedented proportion, and we have not seen an outbreak of this nature as relates to hepatitis A before...Until the numbers start dropping, we won’t have a clear indication of whether we have turned the corner or not."
Dr. Wooten said that most of the cases were among the homeless population. 65% of the infections occurred among people who are homeless themselves or use illicit drugs. 23% of other people infected are directly associated with the homeless population. The remaining 12% do not have records and are suspected to be homeless.
Hepatitis A is typically transmitted through contaminated food or water or through contact with someone infected. While it is rare to be transferred person-to-person, Dr. Wooten believes that this is the common case in this situation.
She said, "Basically, if an individual is infected with hepatitis A and they use the bathroom and don't wash their hands, and then they can spread or contaminate the environment: door handles, ATMs or whatever they touch."
To combat the outbreak, the San Diego Police Department is focusing on vaccination, sanitation, and education. They are offering free hepatitis A shots through homeless outreach and free clinics. They are also attempting to increase the number of mobile showers and hand-washing stations throughout the county to assist with personal hygiene.
According to the LA Times, San Diego health workers have been partnering with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a public education campaign. Hopefully, numbers of sicknesses begin to rapidly decrease and the county begins to "turn the corner."
Please be praying for everyone affected and for hospital workers. Also please pray for wisdom for those trying to combat this outbreak. Share your prayers on Facebook. For more news, read our latest article about Tim Tebow's huge career news that he just received.