San Diego Ramps Up Efforts to Squelch Hepatitis A Outbreak

New bathrooms with security cameras targeting homeless
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2017 7:40 AM CDT
San Diego installed hand washing stations installed this month to combat an outbreak of hepatitis A.   (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
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(Newser) – San Diego is ramping up its battle against a deadly hepatitis A outbreak by opening up new public bathrooms around the clock and adding security cameras, per NBC7 and Newsweek. Officials announced about 20 permanent and portable bathrooms would be open citywide targeting the homeless population, Newsweek reports. They will be cleaned twice daily and monitored via security cameras. The city's homeless coordinator calls the additional bathrooms an "important step to stop the spread of hepatitis A," a liver infection transmitted when people don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. The city is also considering three new 100-bed shelters to help the homeless "transition off the street and into permanent housing," per Newsweek.

About 65% of those infected have no permanent home, per CNN. The city declared a public health emergency on Sept. 1 after the epidemic sickened hundreds, with victims from ages 5 to 57, per the LA Times. So far, 16 people have died and 292 have been hospitalized. Since symptoms can take weeks to appear, the extent of the epidemic is not yet known. Workers have vaccinated 21,000 people, mostly the "at-risk population," added hand-washing stations, and began spraying streets with bleach. Mobile showers may come next, per CNN. Health authorities have identified no common sources, such as contaminated food, for the outbreak. But they issued a warning on Friday that anyone who ate at World Famous restaurant on certain days may have been exposed, per NBC. Symptoms include nausea, joint pain, fatigue, and dark urine. (Hepatitis C infections are on the rise nationwide.)

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