State of emergency declared in California

California officials ratchet up response to hepatitis A outbreak

California officials ratchet up response to hepatitis A outbreak

On Friday afternoon, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency regarding a hepatitis A outbreak that has thus far killed at least 18 people in the state.

To help combat the outbreak, CDPH has already distributed almost 80,000 doses of the vaccine that were obtained through the federal vaccine program, but those supplies must be increased to continue to address the outbreak. Today's proclamation gives the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) authority to immediately purchase vaccines directly from manufacturers and distribute them to impacted communities.

CDPH said the vaccine for adults differs from the one for children, of which there is ample supply. The outbreak was first identified in March, and officials declared a public health emergency in the area in early September. San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties all have declared outbreaks.

California is experiencing the largest hepatitis A outbreak in the United States transmitted from person to person - instead of by contaminated food - since the vaccine became available in 1996. CDPH also recommends vaccination of people who have frequent, close contact with at-risk populations in affected areas.

As noted at the L.A. Times, hepatitis A is typically spread through contaminated food, often with outbreaks centered around a single restaurant.

"The reason we're particularly concerned (now) is because we have an outbreak in San Diego and we have an outbreak in Santa Cruz, and the contagion is in a population not easily contained", said Dr. Sharon Balter, the chief of the department's communicable disease control program. Severe hepatitis A infection is rare but is more common in people with underlying liver disease and can cause the liver to fail, which can lead to death.