Los Angeles County has declared a Hepatitis A outbreak due to two cases that were confirmed to be acquired locally. So far, the Los Angeles health department has reported 10 cases of hepatitis A within the county.

During a briefing with the county Board of Supervisors, health department Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the county already met the definition for an outbreak. Los Angeles County is the third in the California region to declare a hepatitis A outbreak, following San Diego and Santa Cruz County.

Homeless and drug users more likely to be exposed to the virus

According to a report from ABC News, most hepatitis A cases identified so far are either homeless or drug users. However, some employees of a health care facility that provides services for the homeless were also affected by the outbreak.

Aside from the two community-acquired cases, the health department recorded eight more cases. Out of those, four had been in San Diego and one in Santa Cruz. The department also confirmed three secondary cases occurring in a local healthcare facility.

The poor sanitation among the homeless community is the main reason why they are considered to be at high risk. Health care providers, shelter employees, and food-service workers are also considered to be high risk.

However, employees in healthcare facilities, shelters, and restaurants are much easier to track and check compared to patients wandering in the streets.

Vaccination still the best way to prevent hepatitis A

In a report from CBS News, Ferrer urges people within or working with a high-risk population to be vaccinated. Hepatitis A vaccines are available commercially.

Homeless people or people who can’t afford the vaccines can have their injection on clinics for free.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection typically may appear 15 to 50 days after the exposure. Patients infected with the virus may experience fever, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, malaise, and jaundice.

According to the World Health Organization, the hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through a direct contact with an infected person.

The virus can also be acquired through the ingestion of contaminated food and water.

Observing proper hand washing, preparation of food and sanitation of the surroundings can also prevent a future outbreak of hepatitis A. WHO also advised people within high-risk populations to avoid sharing food, water, eating utensils and needles with others.