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Hepatitis A spreads among Los Angeles’ homeless population

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver disease, among its homeless population.

Health officials said five cases of hepatitis A have been reported since mid-March among people experiencing homelessness. The virus, which can spread between people before they even show symptoms, can be found in the stool and blood of infected people. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dark urine, and yellow eyes and skin.

“Unhoused people are at higher risk of contracting hepatitis A because they often have limited access to handwashing facilities and toilets,” the department wrote in a statement.

The Health Ministry said it is offering free hepatitis A vaccines to homeless people in encampments and temporary housing sites where there is a risk of potential exposure. The vaccine can be given to people even after they have been exposed to protect them from developing infection.

The department said it is working closely with health care and homeless service providers to increase awareness of the virus and the growing risks. He urged residents to get vaccinated and wash their hands after using the toilet.

The last known outbreak of hepatitis A in California occurred between 2016 and 2018, primarily among people experiencing homelessness or people using drugs in environments with limited sanitation facilities.

When the outbreak was brought under control in 2018, the state reported 708 cases. More than 60% of those infected required hospitalization and at least 21 people died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year, a similar outbreak occurred among the homeless population in Portland, Maine. Health authorities have recorded at least 18 confirmed cases of hepatitis A among the city’s homeless population.

So far, three states are experiencing hepatitis A outbreaks.

California Daily Newspapers

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