County health workers give Hepatitis A shots at clinics and libraries.
County health workers give Hepatitis A shots at clinics and libraries. Photo by Chris Stone

The county Board of Supervisors Friday scheduled a special meeting for Monday to extend a declaration of emergency regarding an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego.

The declaration was originally made by county health officials at the beginning of September, and requires renewals by the supervisors every two weeks.

The special meeting is set for 11 a.m. Monday at the County Administration Center in downtown San Diego. The next regularly scheduled meeting isn’t until Nov. 14.

On Tuesday, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported that the death toll resulting from the nearly year-old outbreak reached 20, out of 536 reported cases.

The rate of new cases has been falling for a few weeks now, though the county’s public health officer has warned that the disease, which attacks the liver, has a long incubation period, so the numbers will likely continue to grow in the coming weeks.

Nearly two-thirds of the victims have been either homeless, users of illicit drugs or both. Hepatitis A cases linked to the San Diego outbreak have been diagnosed in both Arizona and Colorado.

Around $5.5 million has been spent by the county to fight the spread of the disease, including administering around 84,000 vaccinations and spreading awareness among the public, according to county documents.

Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by touching objects or eating food that someone with the virus has handled or by having sex with an infected person. The disease doesn’t always cause symptoms, but for those who do, they could experience fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, stomach pain, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools and diarrhea, according to the HHSA.

The county and city of San Diego have taken several steps to address the outbreak, including the spraying of a sanitizing formula on streets and sidewalks, the placement of portable hand-washing stations and restrooms in areas where the homeless congregate, and the stepped-up immunization campaign.

—City News Service