DOH investigates Hepatitis A outbreak; 4 cases confirmed


We saw it in California — a public health emergency because of Hepatitis A outbreak. Now, the highly contagious illness usually spread by poor hygiene is here in Albuquerque. 

“It is highly contagious and it can be through handling of food or water,” said Dennis Plumer with Heading Home.  

Albuquerque shelters are on alert as the state Department of Health (DOH) issued a Hepatitis A outbreak — an illness primarily impacting the homeless first.

“It’s flu-like symptoms that can last for a couple days to a few months,” said Plummer.  

Plummer, who is the CEO of Heading Home, said their shelter is taking every possible preventative measure to keep their facility clean. 

“We’re working with UNM [Hospital] and they were bringing in vaccines in their student run clinic, but also the NMDOH, they’ve been very generous,” he said. 
So far, the Department of Health said there are four confirmed cases in Albuquerque and another is under investigation. Last year an outbreak hit California with hundreds of cases.

Cities there were giving vaccines, hosing down sidewalks and cleaning public spaces — something Albuquerque may have to do too.

“The unfortunate thing we know is that Hep-A is not responding to hand creams, which we always are in stock with,” said Plummer.  

So instead they’re using a mixture of bleach and water. 

The illness can be picked up anywhere, from public benches, to door handles and city buses, meaning the homeless are not the only ones at risk. 

“It’s not just a one population issue, the Hep-A virus is really contagious throughout our community, so I think it’s really important and critical not to think, I can’t get this because I’m not homeless,” he said. 

Hepatitis A is spread by people who don’t wash thoroughly after going to the bathroom. The Department of Health says the best way to prevent it from spreading is to get vaccinated. 

KRQE News 13 asked the city if it’s planning on hosing down sidewalks and public areas. The ciyt says we are not yet at that point. 

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