California’s officials have been worried that tourists may contract Hepatitis A as a result of being exposed during the outbreak that has hit the state’s homeless community.
It appears that their fears have been realized, as two concert goers from Utah were struck with the disease that appears to have its origin in San Diego.
Three friends from Salt Lake City visited San Diego in early August for the Metallica concert at Petco Park. Two of them unknowingly brought home an unwelcome souvenir.
Mike Johnson, 43, was diagnosed with hepatitis A on Sept. 14, a little more than a month after his trip to San Diego. By that time, his eyes and skin had turned a shade of yellow and doctors told him he was nearing liver failure.
“It was a nightmare. I was sleeping 14 to 16 hours a night,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without getting tired.”
Johnson’s friend, Josh Oviatt, 44, spent four days in the hospital.
“It was a phenomenal weekend, but we’re paying for it now,” Johnson said. “I essentially sacrificed six months of my life for that one weekend of fun.”
While a popular local restaurant was initially suspected, officials believe it most likely the tourists became infected while in a public area.
“We are certain they did not contract hepatitis A from our known case [at World Famous],” county spokesman Michael Workman told the Union-Tribune. “More likely culprits would be publicly-shared bathrooms on or off property, another unknown infected person, or any contaminated surface in or around the establishment.”
Meanwhile, the locals are trying to contain and control the spread. San Diego officials recorded the 20th death from the liver disease last week. However, they have hope the worst of the outbreak is over.
Though the case count in San Diego’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak increased again Monday, officials said that the number of new infections continues to slow.
In a presentation to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, showed a chart that indicated there were 31 cases in October, significantly fewer than the 81 reported in September and 94 in August which saw the largest total of the outbreak so far.
Local charities who do outreach to the homeless are rethinking some of their operations. For example, a La Jolla church has closed its food pantry because of the hepatitis A being spread in the nearby beach community.
For nine years, the charity So Others May Eat has been feeding homeless and low-income people twice a month at Mary, Star of the Sea.
But the Catholic church recently received a letter from the La Jolla Town Council asking them to stop serving because of the homeless people being attracted to the area.
…Catharine Douglass from the La Jolla Town Council said the church is making the right decision.
“Handing somebody a free sandwich, that doesn’t cure them. If you have people coming in with hepatitis A and they’re sitting down, they’re touching the chairs, they’re touching the tables, they’re using the restrooms, how do you disinfect that?” Douglas said.
It use to be that you only needed to get vaccinations when visiting third world countries and/or tropical areas. Now, it appears, evaluating your vaccination status before visiting California would be prudent.DONATE
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