August 23, 2009

Surfers get vaccines against hepatitis A

Some 75 surfers and bodyboarders who frequent Imperial Beach near San Diego signed up for free hepatitis A shots, a spokeswoman for a program co-sponsor said.

Imperial Beach has attracted avid surfers since before the pier was built in 1963, surfer Jim Knox, 61, said.

I think (the vaccine) is an excellent idea for everyone because I know not everyone stays out of the water when they're supposed to, Knox told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Paloma Aguirre, spokeswoman for Wildcoast, a not-for-profit environmental group, said her organization's goal is to educate the public to obey the signs that say to stay out of the water.

The danger of disease from the water off Imperial Beach was discovered three years ago by San Diego State University researchers who found hepatitis A in 80 percent of water samples taken off the Imperial Beach Pier.

Wildcoast, which co-sponsored the vaccinations with the health center, found three out of five regular ocean uses in Imperial Beach suffered illnesses caused by water contamination.

The contamination, the university found, comes from northbound ocean currents funneling polluted water from the Tijuana River.