On Friday, September 1, San Diego County declared an emergency in the area due to a Hepatitis A Outbreak. The disease so far has resulted in the death of 15 people and hundreds of cases. The outbreak has affected the county’s homeless population the most.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, signed the emergency declaration. Following the declaration of the emergency, a private firm working on a county contract started providing transportable hand-washing stations in specific areas where the homeless population usually tend to come together.

A spokesman for the county stated that by Friday, September 1, night 20 hand-washing stations were already installed and 20 more were expected to be put into place by Saturday, September 2.

County takes measures to fight outbreak

Following the installation of the portable hand-wash stations, the county will also deploy cleaning crews to decontaminate the streets by shooting high-pressure water mixed with bleach. This water and bleach combination will help in the removal of blood, feces, and bodily fluids from the surface. According to Wooten, the above-mentioned cleaning plans used in San Diego are similar to the ones used in Los Angeles to control a hepatitis A infection outbreak.

The San Diego hepatitis A outbreak is the biggest in the last 20 years.

Nearly 378 cases of the infection have been confirmed so far in the county. The first cases of the outbreak came to the fore in November 2016. At the time, the number had not reached epidemic proportions for the health officials to get worried about and the infection was not spreading that fast. However, by March this year, the local health officials noticed that the infections were spreading quicker than usual.

The hepatitis A virus is often picked up by consuming specific foods that are either processed or picked under unclean conditions. The virus enters our body and lives in human feces and usually spreads through people who do not wash their hands properly when visiting a washroom.

County officials emphasize importance of vaccination and education to curb disease

Since the start of this outbreak, the public health officials of the county have focussed on vaccinating the population as well as educating them about the disease and how to prevent it. Although the public health system has distributed thousands of doses of vaccine, the effort has failed to lower down the rate of infection, with the number of deaths growing in recent weeks. Given that the infections are commonly occurring within the homeless population of the county, who do not have access to sanitary facilities, the officials of San Diego County has started the street-cleaning and hand-washing mission, in a bid to restrict the outbreak from spreading any further.