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Death toll from San Diego hepatitis A outbreak rises to 20

Death toll from San Diego hepatitis A outbreak rises to 20
A flier is posted urging San Diegans to get vaccinated against hepatitis A. The death toll from the outbreak that began a year ago reached 20 this week. (Eduardo Contreras / AP)

San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak has now claimed 20 lives across the region.

The county Health and Human Services Agency published new weekly totals late Tuesday morning, raising by one the number of deaths recorded since the health crisis started in November 2016. The running tally of confirmed cases also continues to increase, up to 536 from the previous total of 516.

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Dr. Eric McDonald, chief of the county’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch, said that the new death was a 67-year-old man who died on Oct. 26.

The man, McDonald said, had previously had a confirmed case of outbreak-related hepatitis A and underlying liver problems, but had seemed to get better before the infection relapsed. Relapse, according to medical literature, is known to occur in 3% to 20% of hepatitis A cases.

Overall, McDonald said, the new case rate for the outbreak continues to be lower than it was during the summer months.

“We were getting 20 to 25 confirmed cases per week, and now we’re down to half that,” McDonald said.

Just last week, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, had said that the outbreak had produced no new cases from Oct. 8 through Oct. 19. McDonald said that information was a “misstatement.”

To date, he said, there has not yet been a week without new cases being reported to the county health department.

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