Hepatitis A shots being administered in downtown San Diego. Courtesy City of San Diego

Efforts by the city of San Diego to combat hepatitis A could continue even after the current outbreak is over, a senior city official said Wednesday.

The outbreak has sickened 481 people, 17 fatally, nearly two-thirds of them homeless and/or drug users.

“There is great discussion” that sanitizing of streets and sidewalks where the homeless tend to congregate, along with other programs, will keep going, “maybe not at the level that we’re doing at this point,” Stacey LoMedico, city assistant chief operating officer, told members of the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

She said the city has received “positive feedback” regarding the streets that have been cleaned so far.

A contractor hired by the city began washing down streets and sidewalks Sept. 11 in the East Village, and the program has since expanded into other areas where at-risk populations are located.

The street cleaning is in addition to the city making more public restrooms available around the clock, setting up hand-washing stations, holding vaccination clinics in libraries and cleaning up encampments along the San Diego River.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, told the committee members that it will be hard to tell when the outbreak is over, because hepatitis A has an incubation period that averages nearly one month, and could extend up to 50 days.

Someone could be contagious with the disease — which attacks the liver – – for up to two weeks before developing symptoms such as jaundice, fever and long bouts of fatigue, Wooten said.

She said vaccinations are the best prevention, with the at-risk populations, those who provide them with services, food handlers and first responders among those recommended to get immunized. The vaccine requires two shots over a six-month period.

–City News Service

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