As officials in southern California contend with a growing outbreak of Hepatitis A, Sacramento County is mobilizing early to prevent the disease’s spread.
Starting next week, Sacramento County Public Health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye says the county will start holding vaccination clinics, primarily aimed at the county’s homeless population and people who work with the homeless.
“The best way to prevent is vaccination. Once a person gets sick, it’s supportive care,” said Kasirye.
The state’s Department of Public Health is providing vaccines to the county at no cost.
As of Tuesday, 17 people had died due to Hepatitis A in San Diego since the beginning of the outbreak in early 2017. Hepatitis A has also spread in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties.
“Mainly, Hepatitis A is spread through the fecal-oral route, which means it usually is spread when someone eats or drinks something that has been contaminated with fecal matter from a person with the disease,” said Kasirye.
A lack of bathrooms has contributed to the outbreak of the disease in southern California.
Noel Kammermann, the Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes, which provides food and services to people who are homeless, says the outbreak is “very visible” to the homeless community in Sacramento. Loaves and Fishes will be at least one of the sites for the county’s vaccination clinics, but people sleeping outside the organization’s front door say they weren’t aware of the outbreak – or the risks.
“We have no TV, no radio. They don’t supply us with news, unless we buy the newspaper. I didn’t know that,” said Barbara Drury.
Drury and her husband, who have been homeless for a year and a half, said they would be interested in getting the vaccine once they learned of the 17 people who had died from the disease in San Diego.
When asked how Hepatitis A, Christopher Miranda – a young man who said he grew up on the streets – said it was spread “through needles, injections.” While intravenous drug usage is one common way Hepatitis B and C are spread, Hepatitis A is more often spread through eating food or drinking water contaminated by fecal matter.
Kammermann says he is encouraged by the county’s early action to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A in the Sacramento area.
“I know people have an eye on this in San Diego,” he said. “They want to make sure we don’t follow down that same hole.”