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J Emerg Med. 2018 Nov;55(5):620-626. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.07.031. Epub 2018 Sep 22.

A Description of a Health System's Emergency Department Patients Who Were Part of a Large Hepatitis A Outbreak.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California.



A recent hepatitis A virus (HAV) outbreak in San Diego, California represents one of the largest HAV outbreaks in the United States. The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency identified homelessness and illicit or injection drug use as risk factors for contracting HAV during this outbreak.


We describe those patients who presented to our Emergency Department (ED) and were identified as HAV positive.


This was a retrospective descriptive study conducted at a tertiary care university health system's EDs from November 2016 to February 2018. Included were those of all ages who tested positive for HAV immunoglobulin M antibody. Outcome measures included: 1) demographic data; 2) number of patients testing positive for HAV by week and month of the outbreak; 3) homeless status, illicit and injection drug use, and alcohol use; 4) ED chief complaint; 5) initial liver function and coagulopathy test results, hepatitis B and C test results, and initial vital signs; 6) admission status; 7) death; and 8) the 7-day ED revisit rate for nonadmitted patients and the 30-day all-cause readmission rate for admitted patients.


We identified 57,721 patients with at least one ED visit, and 1,453 of these were tested for HAV; 133 patients (9.2%) tested positive. Average age was 45.1 years, and 91 (68.4%) were male. Eighty-six patients (64.7%) were homeless and 53 patients (39.8%) reported illicit or injection drug use; 64 patients (48.1%) had chief complaints consistent with typical HAV symptoms. Most patients (112 or 84.2%) were admitted. Nine patients (6.8%) were admitted to a critical care setting; 8 patients (6%) died.


During this large HAV outbreak, 9% of those screened for HAV tested positive. The majority were homeless, and 40% reported illicit or injection drug use. Most required hospitalization, and 6% of patients died.


emergency department; hepatitis A; outbreak

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