State of Emergency declared in California due to Hepatitis A outbreak

NBCUniversal Media

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Friday over a widespread Hepatitis A outbreak, citing a need to increase the current adult vaccine supply — San Diego County is currently experiencing the worst outbreak in the state, with 490 reported cases, 342 hospitalizations and 18 deaths, according to the CDPH’s website.

According to the governor’s emergency proclamation, this is the worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States since the vaccine first became widely available 22 years ago.

The declaration will allow the state to increase its vaccine supply in an effort to fight the outbreak. The federally-funded supply of vaccines is not sufficient to meet California’s current health and safety needs.

Several California counties have declared outbreaks, according to the proclamation. Most of these outbreaks are centered in homeless populations and some illicit drug users.

Santa Cruz has 71 reported cases and Los Angeles has eight. There are no reported deaths in these counties so far.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said the governor’s declaration allows the department to immediately purchase additional vaccines and coordinate distribution to those in the zones most at-risk, including the homeless population in San Diego and across the state.

“Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A infection during an outbreak,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH director and state public health officer, in a statement.

To date, the CDPH has distributed nearly 80,000 doses of the vaccine. The increase is necessary to continue to combat the outbreak, the department said.

The CDPH said the adult hepatitis A vaccine is different than the one given to children. The one given to children is in ample supply, the agency said.

Since 2006, children have received the Hepatitis A vaccine as part of their vaccinations required to attend school.

Brown’s proclamation also allows Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) paramedics in affected areas to administer the appropriate vaccine to at-risk individuals.