SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 11/4/2017 11:20 a.m.: A large Hepatitis A outbreak continues to plague California, with more han 630 cases reported as of last week.
Most of the cases are in San Diego and Santa Cruz Counties and affect homeless people who do not have access to clean bathrooms and hand-washing facilities.
However, the Monterey County Health Department is investigating a case in Salinas. Health officials believe a Chinatown resident was infected by someone with the virus in Monterey County last month. They do not believe he had traveled to any of the other affected areas.
"So I firmly believe that represents a local transmission, which is concerning because that could lead to an outbreak here in Monterey County," Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno said.
Some two dozen people that he came into contact with have been identified and immunized.
The state had been limiting Hepatitis vaccines to just those counties being affected. Now that Monterey County is now considered high priority, it now has access to more resources to prevent the spread. On Friday, it received some 700 doses of the Hepatitis vaccine. Not only will it go to high risk groups like the homeless but also to the people who work directly with them, like Dorothy's Place in Chinatown.
"We see a lot of people that travel back and forth from here to Santa Cruz and back so we knew we were going to have it here eventually and we started preparing for this weeks ago," said Jill Allen, executive director of Dorothy's Place.
That's when staff launched a public information campaign to remind people to wash their hands after they use the bathroom. The virus can spread when an infected person touches other objects or food or uses illicit drugs in unsanitary conditions.
Because Dorothy's Place serves 400 meals a day, staff are also being monitored.
"We've been checking the health of the people that prepare our food," Allen said. "We've been insisting on hand washing, gloves, the whole nine yards, so that we can ensure the food that we're serving is very safe."
And public areas that may be contaminatedare going to get a thorough cleaning.
"The virus is very hardy" Dr. Moreno said. "It can live for days or weeks in the environment and it's difficult to kill."
More than 20 people have died from the Hepatitis A outbreak. Most are in San Diego County, but Santa Cruz County has reported its first death. County officials say the patient died in late September and Hepatitis was not the primary cause, that the patient had other health issues.
Santa Cruz County officials confirm one person has died after being infected by Hepatitis A. Officials said the death happened in late September but the victim had other ongoing health issues.
This comes as Monterey County health official’s sound the alarm after a homeless man was recently diagnosed with Hepatitis A in Salinas.
Health officials believe the man who lives in Chinatown was infected with the virus in Monterey County sometime in October. They said he had not traveled to any of the other counties affected by the Hepatitis outbreak, like Santa Cruz or San Diego.
"So I firmly believe that represents a local transmission, which is concerning because that could lead to an outbreak here in Monterey County,” said Monterey County Health Officer, Edward Moreno.
The Monterey County Health Department has launched its department operations center to prevent further spread. The county now considered "high priority," has received 700 hepatitis vaccination doses that it hopes to deliver to the homeless as well as people who work with them.