Officials Say Latest Extreme Hepatitis Outbreak Could Last For Years


Add 20 more cases and 22 more hospitalizations to San Diego County’s ever-growing hepatitis A outbreak.

Tuesday afternoon the county Health and Human Services Agency raised the number of the outbreak’s confirmed cases to 481 from 461 and hospitalizations to 337 from 315. The death count associated with the outbreak, which started in November 2016, remained at 17 for a second straight week.

For the last two weeks, the health department has reported having more than 40 cases under investigation awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they suspect are caused by the same unique strains associated with other outbreak cases.

No information on the number of cases under investigation was available Tuesday. All of those who have died during the outbreak have had underlying medical conditions such as liver disease. Most were also homeless and/or drug users.

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More about the affects of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver tissue.[3] Some people have no symptoms whereas others develop yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes, poor appetite, vomiting, tiredness, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.[1][2] Hepatitis may be temporary (acute) or long term (chronic) depending on whether it lasts for less than or more than six months.[5][1] Acute hepatitis can sometimes resolve on its own, progress to chronic hepatitis, or rarely result in acute liver failure.[6] Over time the chronic form may progress to scarring of the liver, liver failure, or liver cancer.[3]

The most common cause worldwide is viruses.[2][3] Other causes include heavy alcohol use, certain medications, toxins, other infections, autoimmune diseases,[2][3] and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).[7] There are five main types of viral hepatitis: type A, B, C, D, and E.[3] Hepatitis A and E are mainly spread by contaminated food and water.[3] Hepatitis B is mainly sexually transmitted, but may also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth.[3] Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are commonly spread through infected blood such as may occur during needle sharing by intravenous drug users.[3] Hepatitis D can only infect people already infected with hepatitis B.[3]

Hepatitis A, B, and D are preventable with immunization.[2] Medications may be used to treat chronic cases of viral hepatitis.[1] There is no specific treatment for NASH; however, a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, a healthy diet, and weight loss, is important.[7] Autoimmune hepatitis may be treated with medications to suppress the immune system.[8] A liver transplant may also be an option in certain cases.[4]

Worldwide in 2015, hepatitis A occurred in about 114 million people, chronic hepatitis B affected about 343 million people and chronic hepatitis C about 142 million people.[9] In the United States, NASH affects about 11 million people and alcoholic hepatitis affects about 5 million people.[7][10] Hepatitis results in more than a million deaths a year, most of which occur indirectly from liver scarring or liver cancer.[3][11] In the United States, hepatitis A is estimated to occur in about 2,500 people a year and results in about 75 deaths.[12] The word is derived from the Greek hêpar (ἧπαρ), meaning “liver”, and -itis (-ῖτις), meaning “inflammation”.[13]

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