The number of people in San Diego County who have died from the Hepatitis A outbreak has risen to 14, according to officials at San Diego County’s Health and Human Services agency.

Since last November, the number of Hepatitis A cases grew to 352.  In the last week, the county has confirmed 19 new cases and 32 new hospitalizations.

Before the outbreak, Hepatitis A cases in the county averaged just two or three per month. Those who are homeless or use illicit street drugs are at greatest risk of infection because the virus is spread through person to person contact.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer estimates that 65 percent of the hepatitis cases have occurred among drug users or those who are living on the street.

The infection is spread by eating, drinking, sharing a cigarette, having sex or other intimate contact with a person who has the Hepatitis A infection. County public health officials are working closely with law enforcement, homeless service providers, and community groups to educate people about preventing the spread of the disease.

Two public health nurses are a part of each outreach team, which distributes personal hygiene kits with sanitizer and cleansing wipes. The nurses also administer Hepatitis vaccinations in the field. So far, the county reports 16 thousand vaccinations have been given, with these teams and through community partners. The county has set a goal of vaccinating 30,000 people in the highest risk populations.

According to public health officials, 6,000 in those groups have been vaccinated. To learn where you can obtain the Hepatitis A vaccine, you can call 2-1-1 on your phone.