Windsor Johnston |
NPRSunday, September 3, 2017
A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine against hepatitis at a free immunization clinic for students before the start of the school year, in Lynwood, California in 2013.
San Diego's homeless population has been hit hardest by the highly contagious hepatitis A virus.
The outbreak, which began in November, has spread after vaccination and educational programs in the city failed to reduce the infection rate. The virus attacks the liver.
The public health declaration bolsters the county Health and Human Services Agency's ability to request state assistance to fund new sanitation measures. Areas with high concentrations of homeless people will receive dozens of portable hand-washing stations. Health workers will also use bleached-spiked water for power-washing contaminated surfaces.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the San Diego Public Health Officer who signed the declaration into law on Friday, says the sanitation precautions are modeled after similar programs in other Southern California cities - including Los Angeles.
"We know that L.A. has had no local cases of hepatitis A related to the strain that we're seeing here in San Diego," she said. "It makes sense that, if they're doing it there and they haven't had any cases, it could be beneficial here as well."
The first cases linked to the outbreak were first reported in November. As of Friday, more than 15 people in the area have died from hepatitis infections and more than 350 others have been sickened.
According to the World Health Organization most hepatitis A outbreaks are primarily spread when an uninfected person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. The disease is closely associated with unsafe water or food, inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene.
Hepatitis A infections are common among the homeless population due to the lack of access to sanitary facilities. San Diego's efforts to combat the illness began earlier this summer. Health workers promoted hand washing practices and stepped-up street cleanings - but an article published by Voice of San Diego highlighted bureaucratic obstacles that have delayed sanitation improvements in the city.
Concerns have also been raised over the city's ability to handle the outbreak. Employees of the Service Employees International Union say the county doesn't employ enough public health professionals to meet the demand of the growing epidemic.
The California State Legislature is reviewing whether the amount of health resources in the county is adequate. Its findings are expected within the next several months.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.
Delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Check out a sample ReCap newsletter.
Thank you for signing up for the ReCap newsletter! We'll send you an email each Friday with the top stories from CapRadio.
The city of Memphis releases videos of Tyre Nichols' arrest and beating
California coronavirus updates: Judge blocks California law preventing doctors from spreading COVID-19 misinformation
10 new California laws that go into effect in 2023
Republican plan would outlaw homeless camps near California schools or parks
Behind The I-80 Castle: A Drag-Racing, Beauty School Mogul’s Dream House