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San Diego County announces second hepatitis A death

A paramedic with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department prepares a hepatitis A vaccination shot in this undated photo.
Matt Hoffman / KPBS
A paramedic with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department prepares a hepatitis A vaccination shot in this undated photo.

A homeless man has died from hepatitis A, San Diego County officials announced Wednesday.

The 55-year-old man died on June 5 and is the second person to die from the disease this year, according to the county. The first reported death was Jan. 16.

Officials said the most recent victim was unvaccinated and "had additional serious underlying medical conditions, including a chronic substance use disorder."


Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, said hepatitis A cases are primarily among the homeless population in central San Diego, "and that is where the county is continuing to focus its work."

"This second death is a reminder to all of those working with and treating people with substance use issues to get vaccinated and to make sure that the patients they care for are also vaccinated," Wooten added. "We need all of our partners to join us in this response."

The 30 cases reported so far this year are unchanged from last week, with 19 of those being homeless.

Person-to-person spread is the reason for the increased case number, according to the county, which added that 16 of those who are sick reported illicit drug use.

No single outbreak location has been identified, and there is also no specific food or water source. The county added that employees are taking steps to prevent further disease spread.


Since early February, more than 3,835 people considered at risk have received a hepatitis vaccination.

Prevention efforts include over 100 vaccination events so this year and more outreach worker foot teams focusing on downtown San Diego encampments. County employees have also given out information and hygiene kits.

Homeless people are more vulnerable to contract the virus, which can spread in areas without convenient access to bathrooms.

The hepatitis A vaccination schedule is generally a two-dose series, with the first dose considered to be 95% effective. Because vaccine protection will eventually decrease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a second shot six to 18 months later to provide immunity for between 20 and 40 years.

The vaccine is also recommended for those working with homeless people or illicit drug users.

Hepatitis A case and vaccination numbers are updated online every Wednesday afternoon at The website also features resources and other information.

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