A Hepatitis A outbreak has killed 16 people in the southern California city of San Diego. In order to combat the disease, the city has literally begun spraying the streets with bleach.
An article by NPR said that the Hepatitis A was first identified in the area in early March, according to the county, and declared a public health emergency earlier this month. Nearly 400 people have been infected with the disease.
The majority of those sickened by this viral infection outbreak have been homeless people. A letter from San Diego County health officials stated that hepatitis A is being spread through contact with a “fecally contaminated environment” as well as person-to-person transmission. A big part of the problem is an apparent lack of public restrooms in areas where the homeless population congregates.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection, which can prove fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus attacks the liver. Adequate personal hygiene and sanitation can help prevent the spread of the virus.
On August 31, the county issued a directive which has forced the city to wash the streets and expand public restroom access, adding that “failure to immediately follow this directive will endanger public health and safety.” Last Friday, the city agreed to the orders and began bleaching the streets on Monday.
According to NPR, the process is lengthy and must be repeated every two weeks to combat the outbreak.
The procedure, as prescribed by the county, involves first spraying down hazardous items such as human waste or needles, waiting 10 minutes, removing the contaminated items, then spraying the area again with bleach. After that, it calls for pressure-washing the area with water.
It is set to be repeated every two weeks, with weekly “spot maintenance,” according to county guidelines. –NPR
A lack of affordable housing is contributing to the problem and the continual raising of taxes makes it harder on those already struggling financially. “Seventy-seven percent of unsheltered people said they became homeless in San Diego,” the Union-Tribune reports.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf recently told member station KPBS that she is concerned about the amount of waste in her area as a result of illegal encampments of homeless people. “I went down there myself in July and what I saw with my own eyes was an insane amount of trash,” Zapf said. “I saw human feces, meth cookers, syringes, stolen property — and all of this will flow right to the ocean if it is not cleaned up, and it will spread hepatitis A virus.”