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Protect yourself against Hepatitis A Outbreak

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Hepatitis A outbreak in California killed more than a dozen people, forcing health officials to the edge as they attempt to contain the increasing numbers of individuals infected with the virus.

The outbreak has involved more than 570 cases in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties and health officials say the majority affected are drug abusers that use needles and homeless communities, many of which have drug addicts.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus.

HAV is highly contagious and can cause liver dysfunction and disease, lasting a few weeks up to months which then become serious and fatal.

Hepatitis A is not airborne, which means it cannot be acquired by breathing the same air as an infected person.

“Hepatitis A can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine and proper disinfecting techniques,” said Mary Sullivan, De Anza College’s Director of Health Education and Wellness.

De Anza’s Health Services is helping their students stay protected against the virus, as well as taking the appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, said Jim Thurber, De Anza’s Health Services Clinic Coordinator.

There haven’t been any reported outbreaks at De Anza and the college is in touch with County Public Health. In addition, with any potential threat to students, faculty, staff and visitors, the clinic has an emergency response plan which includes working with county partners to respond.

“Our clinic staff receive training throughout the year on emergency response, disasters and other unusual situations,” Thurber said.  “Amongst topics discussed were outbreak and prevention.”

Thurber said the campus Health Clinic does not offer Hepatitis A vaccines, due to the cost involved and low rate of use. However, students can make an appointment and be tested at the clinic using off site laboratories.

Students who need Hepatitis A vaccines can contact the county Health Department and arrange for vaccination or receive one from their own medical provider.

“De Anza’s Health Service Clinic also provides brochures available to their students for more educational information on Hepatitis A, B and C,” Sullivan said.

Vaccination is available for Hepatitis A at various clinics and is the best way to prevent getting infected.

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