California is now placed under "state of emergency" due to what is considered as the largest person-to-person hepatitis outbreak in the state’s history. The declaration was made by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13 in an effort to put an end to the deadly outbreak.

So far, there are at least 576 confirmed cases in California. Out of those, 342 were hospitalized and 18 already died. Multiple California counties were affected by the outbreak, including San Diego County, Santa Cruz County, and Los Angeles County. The San Diego jurisdiction is among the hardest hit, with 490 infected cases.

Vaccination still the best way to prevent infection

With the declaration of the state of emergency, the California Department of Public Health can now purchase hepatitis A vaccines directly from manufacturers. Health officials noted that vaccination is still the best way to avoid being infected. However, the current vaccine supply of the health department is insufficient.

Health officials already distributed over 80,000 federal-funded vaccines. One of the most affected populations is the homeless community. The San Diego County already gave paramedics the authority to vaccinate people living within the at-risk areas.

Aside from providing vaccines for those in need, different counties have taken several preventive measures to curb the further spread of the disease.

Over 100 hand washing stations were installed throughout the state, in addition to several public bathrooms being made available in areas frequented by the homeless population. Affected public areas were power-washed with a bleach solution to kill any lingering virus on the surface.

A hardy virus

In a report from ABC News, Dr.

Matt Zahn of the Orange County Health Care Agency noted that the hepatitis A virus is very resilient and can last a long time on a surface or in certain environments. The current strain of hepatitis A virus causing the outbreak is not common in the United States. Usually, hepatitis A outbreaks in the U.S. are food-borne. However, the current outbreak is most likely to be spread through person-to-person contact.

Hepatitis A is an acute infection that can be transferred through ingestion of contaminated food and drinks, exposure to at-risk areas and close contact with an infected person. Symptoms of the infection usually become apparent 14 to 28 days after the initial exposure. Symptoms may include but not limited to fever, malaise, diarrhea, and nausea, loss of appetite, dark-colored urine, abdominal discomfort, and jaundice.

Aside from getting vaccinated, further spread of the virus can be easily prevented through personal hygiene practices, proper sewage disposal, adequate supply of clean water and correct food handling procedures.