from the wash-your-hands dept.
San Diego's homeless population has been hit hardest by the highly contagious hepatitis A virus.
The outbreak, which began in November, has spread after vaccination and educational programs in the city failed to reduce the infection rate. The virus attacks the liver.
The public health declaration bolsters the county Health and Human Services Agency's ability to request state assistance to fund new sanitation measures. Areas with high concentrations of homeless people will receive dozens of portable hand-washing stations. Health workers will also use bleached-spiked water for power-washing contaminated surfaces.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the San Diego Public Health Officer who signed the declaration into law on Friday, says the sanitation precautions are modeled after similar programs in other Southern California cities - including Los Angeles.
San Diego continues to face a hepatitis A outbreak:
Like other major cities all along the West Coast, San Diego is struggling with a homeless crisis. In a place that bills itself as "America's Finest City," spiraling real estate values have contributed to spiraling homelessness, leaving more than 3,200 people living on the streets or in their cars.
Most alarmingly, the deplorable sanitary conditions help spread a liver-damaging virus that lives in fæces, contributing to the deadliest U.S. hepatitis A epidemic in 20 years. "Some of the most vulnerable are dying in the streets in one of the most desirable and livable regions in America," a San Diego County grand jury wrote in its report in June — reiterating recommendations it gave the city over the past decade to address homelessness.
San Diego has struggled to do that. Two years ago, Mayor Kevin Faulconer closed a downtown tent shelter that operated for 29 years during winter months. He promised a "game changer" — a new, permanent facility with services to funnel people to housing. But it wasn't enough. The result? Legions of Californians without shelter. A spreading contagion. And an extraordinary challenge to the city's sunny identity that threatens its key tourism industry.
San Diego workers will power-wash streets with a bleach solution in an attempt to stop the spread of Hepatitis A:
At least 15 people have died in San Diego from an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak. In an effort to stop the spread of the viral liver disease, city officials have begun power-washing streets across the downtown area, according to NBC San Diego.
As of Monday, workers dressed in protective white gear and red hard hats were seen outside spraying the sidewalks with a bleach-based liquid in hopes of killing the virus that lives in human feces. "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, told NBC San Diego.
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. For now, just streets in San Diego are being washed, but in the near future hand-washing and street-sanitizing efforts will be implemented in other cities in the region, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the region's public health officer, told the AP.