San Diego’s latest step to combat its deadly outbreak of hepatitis A is to power-wash its streets every other, among other measures that seek to prevent the disease from spreading any further.
The outbreak, which has hit the county’s homeless population the hardest since it started in November, has prompted the local government to install hand-washing stations at strategic locations to make sanitation more accessible to the homeless. Officials declared a public health emergency due to the disease’s large-scale effects – it has killed 15 people and put 300 more in the hospital, US News and World Report states.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office has responded to a letter from the county government that asked the city to come up with specific sanitation actions. The county gave the city five business days to create a plan to combat the “fecally contaminated environment” primarily responsible for the liver disease.
Cleaning crews will use water containing strong bleach to pressure-wash outdoor surfaces that may be contaminated with feces, blood or bodily fluids. Hepatitis A thrives in human excrement and spreads due to poor hygiene.
San Diego County moved forward with its contractor, who installed the 40 hand-washing stations in areas where homeless people often congregate, and will continue to add more washing and showering facilities.
In addition to washing the streets, the county also asked the city to “immediately expand access to public restrooms and wash stations within the city limits that are adjacent to at-risk populations.”
Police escorts will be helping San Diego County’s mobile vaccination programs, and additional vaccination clinics will be opened at public libraries. Vaccinations and widespread education were San Diego’s first line of defense at preventing the spread of the disease, but infection rates have not decreased despite thousands of vaccine doses.
The county is expected to expand its efforts to other cities, where hepatitis A has now affected nearly 400 patients.