A few weeks ago we highlighted the staggering outbreak of Hepatitis A in San Diego that had infected 400 people and killed more than a dozen. The outbreak was first identified in early March, according to the county, and declared a public health emergency in September.
But, as the LA Times points out, the hepatitis A outbreak that started in San Diego is now on the verge of reaching statewide epidemic status, as cases have spread through homeless tent cities all the way north to Sacramento.
California’s outbreak of hepatitis A, already the nation’s second largest in the last 20 years, could continue for many months, even years, health officials said Thursday.
At least 569 people have been infected and 17 have died of the virus since November in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties, where local outbreaks have been declared.
Dr. Monique Foster, a medical epidemiologist with the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday that California’s outbreak could linger even with the right prevention efforts.
“It’s not unusual for them to last quite some time — usually over a year, one to two years,” Foster said.
Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted through contaminated food. The only outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant.
California’s outbreak, however, is spreading from person to person, mostly among the homeless community.
The virus is transmitted from feces to mouth, so unsanitary conditions make it more likely to spread. The city of San Diego has installed dozens of handwashing stations and begun cleaning streets with bleach-spiked water in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the outbreak has made its way to Santa Cruz and L.A. counties, where 70 and 12 people have already been diagnosed, respectively, as public health officials warn that the worst is likely far from over.
San Diego County declared a public health emergency in September because of its hepatitis A outbreak.
Since November, 481 people there have fallen ill, including 17 who died, according to Dr. Eric McDonald with the county’s health department. An additional 57 cases are under investigation, he said.
Officials from both counties say they’ve vaccinated thousands of homeless people and will continue to do so.
New cases linked to the outbreak might not appear for weeks, because it can take up to 50 days for an infected person to show symptoms, said Santa Cruz public health manager Jessica Randolph.
“I don’t think the worst is over,” Randolph said.
Of course, as we pointed out earlier this year (see: Shocking Video Footage Of Sprawling California Tent City), sprawling tent cities have been popping up all over California for years and are called home by 1,000s of residents in even the most posh cities from Newport to Santa Cruz. All of which has prompted a wave of vaccinations and a “review of sanitation protocols for homeless encampments”…which we’re sure will be followed very rigorously by residents.
In Orange County, which has had two hepatitis A cases linked to the outbreak, public health workers have given out 492 vaccines, mostly to homeless people, officials said. County nurses have also been visiting shelters and parks to vaccinate people.
Some officials, including in Riverside and Sacramento counties, also said they were reviewing their sanitation protocols for homeless encampments. An L.A. councilman recently called for more toilets in neighborhoods such as skid row and Venice in light of the local hepatitis cases.
In Oakland, city workers, represented by SEIU Local 1021, sent a letter to City Hall last month saying they feared a hepatitis A outbreak in the region’s homeless community. So far, there haven’t been any cases in Oakland or the rest of Alameda County, but city safety steward Brian Clay said he believed the city has allowed unsanitary conditions in homeless encampments.
“There’s syringes, there’s human feces, there are dead animals, rats alive, and dead rats … pee bottles, five-gallon buckets used as toilets,” Clay said. “We’re definitely concerned about this added threat of hepatitis A.”
As Breitbart points out, California’s tent cities are the direct result of “proactive” legislation that forbids police from dispersing homeless people living in tent cities between the hours of 9pm and 5:30am.
California homeless advocates have been successful across the state in forcing cities to accept the homeless living in large tent communities on public property. The advocates refer to anti-homeless ordinances as the modern-day equivalent to post-slavery Jim Crow and Depression era anti-Okie laws that allowed police to disperse people deemed “undesirable” after dark.
The City of San Diego was forced to sign the Spencer Settlement in 2006, which forbids its Police Department from enforcing the city’s “Illegal Lodging Enforcement Guidelines” between the hours of 9 pm to 5:30 am.
California, with 115,738 homeless, now accounts for about 21 percent of America’s total homeless population. Due to legal settlements against vagrancy laws, about 72.3 percent of California’s homeless are unsheltered, usually living in tent cities.
If you like your socialist utopia, you can keep your socialist utopia.