All hands are on deck as San Diego County calls for a public health emergency to combat Hepatitis A, a deadly and highly-contagious disease. In San Diego Country, the virus struck over 412 people, and is responsible for the deaths of nearly 20.
Hepatitis A is a, “liver disease that is primarily spread through the ingestion of contaminated water or food,” and is, according to the World Health Organization, closely associated with “inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene.”
County News Center says that “symptoms usually appear over a number of days” but can last for as little as two months.
“There’s a desperate race against time to stop [the virus] from spreading, especially among the area’s homeless and drug users,” said CBS News.
Hepatitis A infected homeless residents, and more specifically, abusers of drugs and alcohol. Since the virus is transmitted through close physical contact, it comes as no surprise that the use of recreational drugs, as well as living in the same household of someone with hepatitis, are sure ways to put your health at risk.
In attempts to eradicate the spread of the virus and ultimately save the lives of San Diego’s most vulnerable residents, county health officials have implemented 24/7 public restrooms, pop-up clinics for people to get free hepatitis A vaccines, and numerous hand-washing stations.
City workers have been employed to bleach down sidewalks and benches. As of September 1st, workers have specifically hosed down El Cajon, Downtown, and parts of La Mesa.
County staff have also distributed over 2,400 hygiene kits to individuals each containing water, non-alcohol hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, clinic location information and plastic bags.
“We’re following the direction of county health officials to address the unsanitary conditions that have helped fuel this outbreak,” Craig Gustafson, Senior Director of Communications for the mayor, told the Union-Tribune.“We’re taking swift action to eradicate this virus.” He later revealed that San Diego will have “additional shelters to help get people off the street, [and] get them the help [they] need.”
Some admittedly have mixed emotions about the cities attempt to sanitize our streets.
Stephen Zolezzi, president of San Diego’s Food and Beverage Association, believes the city should have been doing more long before this outbreak. “Where were they two or three or four years ago,” Zolezzi asked. “It’s great that they’re coming up with some solutions now, but they’re really closing the barn door after the horses already left.”
Regardless of delayed action, officials have recently recognized the problem and started to swiftly rid San Diego of the deadly hepatitis A virus.