Hepatitis + Wildfire = Public Health Doomsday in California

State declares emergency over deadly hep-A outbreak; could last for years … 

(LA TIMES)  Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday because of a hepatitis A outbreak that has killed at least 18.

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Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a State of Emergency as California’s hep-A outbreak brings a disturbing new meaning to ‘SHTF.’

The declaration allows officials to buy additional doses of the hep-A vaccine to try to halt the outbreak, the nation’s second largest in more than two decades.

“We have the capacity to use as much vaccine as we can get our hands on,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health.

The outbreak began in San Diego last year, but has since spread outside the region. Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties are also now experiencing outbreaks.

So far, 581 people have been sickened with the liver virus, more than half of whom have ended up in the hospital. The virus is particularly dangerous, and can be fatal, for people who already have other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.

Federal officials said last week that, even with the ongoing efforts to slow the disease, California’s outbreak could last years.

“Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A,” said Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith.

The hepatitis A shot is already required for children, but now health officials are recommending it for people who are homeless and drug users.

Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted through contaminated food. The only U.S. outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant.

California’s outbreak, however, is spreading from person to person, mostly among the homeless community. Unsanitary conditions make the virus more likely to infect more people because it’s also transmitted through contact with feces. READ THE FULL STORY AT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. Also of interest: California Wildfires Harming People Far Beyond Flames’ Reach