15 dead in hepatitis outbreak as San Diego starts street washing

Faith Castro
September 13, 2017

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Wednesday that the city needs to shelter people living in the streets as soon as possible so they can have clean restrooms and washing stations.

In order to find housing opportunities for the homeless, the city has partnered with individuals in the private sector to fund operation costs. "We're taking swift action to eradicate this virus from our streets and keep our most vulnerable residents safe".

The homeless and drug-using population has been hit the hardest.

"Working with homeless service providers, Mayor Faulconer has identified three locations for the temporary bridge shelters with the goal of opening one or more of them by the end of December".

A vacated street at 16th Street and Newton Avenue with a shelter operated by Alpha Project.

"We're probably going to be doing them every other Monday, see how that works out at least for the time being", Jose Ysea, a city spokesman, was reported as saying.

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Meanwhile, the proposed emergency declaration would focus on a lack of homeless shelters.

In recent weeks, public health officials have said that, because the incubation period for hepatitis A ranges from 15 to 50 days, it may take several more months for any positive effects of the current sanitation campaign to be obvious. A total of 256 mass vaccination events as well as 109 "foot teams" consisting of public health nurses who have been deployed into areas heavily populated with homeless people to offer vaccinations.

Councilman David Alvarez proposed the shelter declaration almost two weeks ago, calling for immediate action because of the fatalities.

The mayor's office provided no additional information on public restroom access except a three-page list of existing facilities, some of which are open 24 hours a day. Of those 3,231 were living on the street.

The high-pressure power-washing system using bleach will hopefully remove "all feces, blood, bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces", according to a sanitation plan included in a letter delivered to San Diego city officials, the Associated Press reports.

To eliminate the virus outbreak, the city has provided around 40 hand washing stations and the spraying of the bleach solution in the streets. In 2016, the annual count in San Diego estimated that at least 8,669 people were homeless, but the Zillow study said that the number was actually 11,149, a difference of 28.6 percent.

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