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Hepatitis A Information

Hepatitis A in the County of Santa Clara

In September 2017, two cases of hepatitis A were identified among staff and inmates at County of Santa Clara correctional facilities (Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility). Rapid-response mass vaccination in County correctional facilities and a public health investigation were completed.

We have no evidence of a hepatitis A outbreak in Santa Clara County. Our efforts are currently focused on preventing an outbreak.

San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles Counties have an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak. On October 13, 2017, the governor of California declared a state of emergency to help control this hepatitis A outbreak. The outbreak is occurring primarily among homeless and substance using individuals. Although there were only two cases in Santa Clara County correctional facilities this year, we acted quickly to prevent an outbreak from happening here. 

In September, the County of Santa Clara completed rapid-response mass vaccination in County correctional facilities. 

  • All inmates at Santa Clara County Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility were offered hepatitis A vaccination.

  • Staff who work in the Santa Clara County Main Jail or Elmwood Correctional Facility and who have regular, frequent close contact with inmates were advised to be vaccinated for hepatitis A because of possible increased risk of exposure to hepatitis A virus.

  • Most employees in a healthcare or correctional setting have a low risk of contracting hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is generally not occupationally acquired in healthcare or correctional settings, and routine vaccination of staff is usually not recommended. Regular handwashing, including before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, and before and after providing patient care is effective at preventing hepatitis A infection.

The Public Health Department worked with government and community partners to address needs and protect other groups who may be at risk for hepatitis A exposure. We partnered with the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program to equip their clinics and backpack teams with hepatitis A vaccines. The Public Health Department worked closely with the Department of Environmental Health​ to provide information about restroom cleaning procedures and hygiene for hepatitis A prevention to businesses, homeless shelters, and government agencies that operate public restrooms. The County Office of Supportive Housing coordinated a briefing of several homeless outreach programs, which distributed flyers and posters with educational information and clinic locations for hepatitis A vaccines. Behavioral Health Services also put up our posters in their treatment facilities and clinics for substance users.

What You Need to Know

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through the “fecal-oral” route. If a person with hepatitis A does not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom they can contaminate objects, food, or drinks. Someone else can be infected when they put these items into their mouth.

Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent hepatitis A.

In addition to vaccination, consistent, thorough hand washing after going to the bathroom and before preparing or eating food is the most effective way to prevent getting hepatitis A.

More about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A virus infection can cause a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. People with liver disease, including chronic hepatitis B or C infection, are at greater risk of developing severe disease as a result of hepatitis A infection. People over 50 years old are also at greater risk of developing severe disease. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A does not cause a chronic infection.

How is hepatitis A virus spread?

Hepatitis A virus is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. Transmission typically occurs when someone with hepatitis A infection goes to the bathroom and does not wash their hands well afterwards so that tiny particles of stool containing the virus contaminate objects, food, or drinks and then can be spread to others. For this reason, the virus can spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed.

Most infections in the United States result from contact with a household member or sex partner who has hepatitis A. Hepatitis A virus can also be spread by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Most people infected with the hepatitis A virus develop symptoms. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor to be evaluated.

How soon after exposure to hepatitis A will symptoms appear?

If symptoms occur, they usually appear about 28 days after exposure, but can occur 15 to 50 days after exposure. 

Can hepatitis A be prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for people who fall into the following groups:

  • History of incarceration
  • Homeless
  • Substance use
  • Chronic liver disease, including infection with hepatitis B or C
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People traveling to countries that have high or intermediate levels of HAV transmission
  • Children, at age 1 year
  • Family and caregivers of adoptees from countries where Hepatitis A is common
  • People with clotting-factor disorders

Frequent, thorough handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.

If you are a food worker, you should never touch food with bare hands. You should carefully wash your hands after using the bathroom, even if you do not feel sick. Food workers should never work while they are sick with stomach illnesses.

If you have any questions about potential exposure to hepatitis A, call your healthcare professional. If you were exposed to hepatitis A virus and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis A vaccination can prevent developing hepatitis A if it is given within the first two weeks after exposure. If you are not sure if you have been vaccinated, get the vaccine. A second dose is recommended in six months to help ensure that the vaccine is effective in the future. If you have chronic liver disease, a weakened immune system, or you are over 40 years old you might benefit from an injection of immune globulin (antibodies to help fight hepatitis A). A healthcare professional can help decide whether the vaccine, immune globulin, or both are best on the basis of your age and health.

To learn more about hepatitis A, please visit:

Hepatitis A Fact Sheet: English - Spanish - Vietnamese​
NIH Hepatitis A FAQs: English - ​Spanish

More information for Healthcare Providers:

Providers hepatitis A Information webpage

More information for the Media:

Media Statement: Update on Hepatitis A​

County of Santa Clara Offers Media Availability on Hepatitis A Vaccination of Inmates and Staff at Correctional Facilities

​​​​​​​​​​​​​More information for food service workers:
Handwashing procedure and employee illness reporting​ from the Department of Environmental Health 

Last updated: 2/2/2018 4:40 PM