Newswise — The hepatitis A outbreak has continued to worsen in California, with about 600 cases and 19 deaths reported so far, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

It is the largest person-to-person outbreak not stemming from a common source or contaminated food since 1996, when the hepatitis A vaccine became available. Most cases have been in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“There are things that the county or state and do, but also things that you can do to protect yourself and the community at large,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine in the department of infectious diseases at the David Geffen school of Medicine at UCLA and of public health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The best ways to protect yourself are:


  1. Get vaccinated.  Hepatitis A vaccine is safe and highly effective
  2. Avoid contaminated food or water
  3. When sexually active, be sure to wash up before and after
  4. Use restrooms and wash hands after use


What the county or state can do to reduce hepatitis A outbreaks:


  1. Provide clean public restrooms in areas of high density
  2. Add hepatitis A vaccination to the list of vaccines required for school entry
  3. Educate the community and providers about the safety and efficacy of hepatitis A vaccination
  4. Provide free hepatitis A vaccination through community pharmacies
  5. Assure clean water and sanitation services for group encampments, homeless congregation areas and shelters

Klausner is a frequent advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. From 1998-2009, Klausner was a deputy health officer, director of sexually transmitted disease prevention and control services at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and from 2009-2011, was branch chief for HIV and TB at the Centers for Disease Control, South Africa. 

The UCLA Broadcast Studio is available for interviews.