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Hepatitis A Outbreak Among Homeless Has Sacramento Health Officials On Alert

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

A homeless person sleeps on a sidewalk in Sacramento, Calif.,Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

San Diego declared a public health emergency this month after Hepatitis A killed 16 people and sickened hundreds, most of them homeless.

The disease spreads quickly in unsanitary environments like homeless camps

There haven’t been any cases in the Sacramento region yet, but health officials like Dr. Robert Oldham in Placer County say it could happen.

"People experiencing homelessness just like everyone else - they travel, And I think it’s certainly quite possible that someone affected by the outbreak in other areas could travel to this region and spread the illness.”

Hepatitis A lives in fecal matter. If an infected person uses the bathroom and doesn't wash their hands, they could easily contaminate food, needles, and even public surfaces like door handles and sidewalks.

The liver disease is rarely fatal, but symptoms like nausea, jaundice and vomiting can last for months.

Some Northern California counties are receiving extra Hepatitis A vaccines from the state and distributing them at homeless shelters.

Placer County public health nurse Meg Dorsey has been delivering the vaccines for the last few weeks.

"Every individual that we vaccinate reduces the risk of transmission, not just in the homeless population but in the greater community as well."

The outbreaks have prompted some homeless advocates to demand more public bathrooms and affordable housing. San Diego recently installed dozens of port-o-potties and hand washing stations in an effort to stave off the disease.

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