Managing Germs

Washing your hands is always important! It helps our community stay well and we have less chance of spreading germs. Everyone wants to avoid catching a cold or the flu! Currently, in San Diego county we are being reminded of basic hygiene efforts due to a Hepatitis A outbreak.

What you need to know:

San Diego County is experiencing an ongoing outbreak of Hepatitis A, a viral illness that causes liver infection. The outbreak has (so far) primarily affected vulnerable populations, including homeless and illicit drug users and men who have sex with men. This virus is spread through direct contact with an infected person, or through consuming contaminated food or water.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can cause liver disease, lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. In some cases, people can die.

How is the Hepatitis A transmitted?

The virus is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or consumption of contaminated food or water. Contamination can occur when infected persons do not wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touch other objects or food items. It can also be transmitted when having sex with someone who has an HAV infection.

Common Symptoms:

Fatigue, stomach sickness, weight loss, pain near your liver (on the right side of your stomach under your rib), fever, sore muscles, discolored skin, and dark urine. Call your health care provider or visit the Student Health Center if you are experiencing multiple symptoms or believe you have been exposed to the virus.

How Can We Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis A?

To help our campus community prevent the continual spread of viral infections such as hepatitis A, we encourage you to take the following preventative steps into consideration:

  1. Get vaccinated against hepatitis A with a safe and effective HAV vaccine if you have not previously done so. If you we born in 1995 or later there is a strong chance you have already been vaccinated. It may be worth reviewing your vaccine records or checking with your doctor to ensure you have been vaccinated.
  2. Practice the following good hygiene habits:
    • Properly wash your hands after using the restroom and before you prepare or eat food.
    • Wash your dishes in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher.
    • Don’t eat or drink anything that may have been prepared in unsanitary conditions.

What does proper hand washing look like?

The most effective way to prevent the spread of the hepatitis A virus and other common infections is to wash your hands properly and regularly. We encourage you to follow these simple steps when washing your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the water, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Make sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (you can hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice as a helpful way to track the time).
  4. Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or by air drying them.

Who Is At Increased Risk for Getting HAV Infection?

  • Individuals who are homeless or have limited ability to support proper hygiene.
  • Travelers to countries with high / medium rates of HAV.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs.
  • During this outbreak, individuals with ongoing close contact with homeless and illicit drug users.

For more information on Hepatitis A, the outbreak, and prevention, please read USD’s Student Health Center’s letter to campus groups regarding Ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County.

Other Resources:

CDC – Hand Washing
San Diego County Health