The County of San Diego is currently in the throws of a Hepatitis A outbreak. The outbreak so far has claimed the lives of 16 people, and has hospitalized over 400 individuals to date. The hardest hit in the general population are those who are homeless. In San Diego, individuals and families who are homeless are hard pressed to find open public restrooms or hand washing stations throughout the city. In the areas that we frequent, we have only recently started seeing hand washing station installed after the County of San Diego declared the outbreak an emergency.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A belongs to the family of viral infections that affect the liver. An inflamed liver can affect people in different ways, causing a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.
How is it Spread?
As stated above, Hepatitis A can be spread from person to person contact, or via contaminated food sources.
- Person to person contact
- An infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and proceeds in touching other objects or food
- When a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person and touches other objects or food
- when someone has sex or sexual contact with an infected person. Sexual contact is not limited to anal-oral contact.
- Contaminated food or water
- Hepatitis A can be spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. (This can include frozen or undercooked food.) This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. The food and drinks most likely to be contaminated are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water. In the United States, chlorination of water kills Hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.
Here to help
The County of San Diego has recently taken several steps try to stop the spread of Hepatitis A among those who are homeless. These steps include hosting vaccination clinics, distributing hygiene care packages and literature informing individuals of the risk. We are Akhawaty Incorporated reached out to the county’s epidemiology and immunization services branch (EPI) of the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. Working together, team members from EPI assembled 200 hygiene packages (overnight!) for our volunteers to distribute. Each package consisted of water bottles, hand soap, hand sanitizing wipes, literature about Hepatitis A, and sanitation bags.
While distributing the packages, our volunteers took the opportunity to speak with some of those we were serving. Many were very thankful for the service being provided as well as the packages. We at Akhawaty Incorporated are planning future events to help do our part to stop the spread of Hepatitis A. We need your help to make this happen. You can help by volunteering at future events, and/or making a donation to support our cause. Every ounce of good helps us to better serve those in need! We hope to see you at an upcoming event!