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Public Safety

Hepatitis A Outbreak Most Likely Over, Public Health Emergency Could End Soon

Matt Hoffman / KPBS
A mobile San Diego Fire-Rescue hepatitis A vaccination truck shown in this undated photo.

San Diego County health officials said the worst of the hepatitis A outbreak is most likely over and that the local health emergency could end by January 2018.

“I like to use the analogy of the fire," Dr. Eric McDonald said. McDonald is the medical director for the county's epidemiology and immunization services branch. "We have the containment of this outbreak, but there’s still some spots we need to get under control before we say the emergency is over.”

From May to September, the county confirmed around 80 hepatitis A cases per month. In October, that started to drop with 34. Just last month there were 20 confirmed cases; and so far in December, only two infections have been found.

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Hepatitis A Outbreak Most Likely Over, Public Health Emergency Could End Soon

RELATED: San Diego Hepatitis A Death Toll Reaches 20

"We anticipate that if we continue to have this level, or even a lower level of cases that are reported at the end of January we think we can move to the next phase,” McDonald said.

Part of that next phase includes ending the local health emergency that has been in effect since September. Tuesday the board of supervisors voted to extend it two more weeks.

“It needs to continue because of how long it takes for cases of hepatitis A to appear," McDonald said. "It can be up to seven weeks before someone gets symptoms from when they were exposed, so you know it’s going to take a while before we know what happened six or seven weeks ago.”

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571 cases and 20 deaths have been confirmed since the outbreak started in November 2016.

Hepatitis A Outbreak Most Likely Over, Public Health Emergency Could End Soon
As number of confirmed hepatitis A cases fall, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to again extend the local health emergency, which officials said could end by January 2018.