Hepatitis A: severe illness and deaths hit San Diego homeless population

Over the last few months, Frank, an avid reader about all things “US Vet,” has emailed several articles to me about the hepatitis A (HAV) outbreak in San Diego (SD) to share with Asknod’s folk.  The ongoing story has many aspects that deserve our attention.

Home to 60 Naval ships, (LINK) homeless SD Veterans are among those who have to live in the unbearable conditions that have led to the spread of this highly contagious form of hepatitis. 

Statistics, according to one article, suggest that perhaps 10-15% of the SD homeless population are veterans. (LINK)

The annual count of homeless people taken in January found 1,054 homeless veterans in the county. Of those, 600 were sheltered and 454 were unsheltered. In all, the county had 9,116 homeless people, with 5,619 in San Diego.

Click image to go to San Diego Health Dept.

A 9/19/17 Huffingtonpost article (LINK) has revealed in common terms some of the realistic strategies SD is taking.

An outbreak of hepatitis A, a dangerous but preventable disease that is spread through fecal contamination and attacks the liver, has gotten so out of hand in San Diego that the county government is handing out plastic poop bags and washing the streets with bleach.

Why? Because there aren’t enough public bathrooms for people to use to evacuate and wash their hands.  HAV may also be an unintended consequence of a recent single-use plastic bag ban, according to some (LINK):

Homeless people learned long ago that pooping in plastic-bag-lined containers meant you could wrap the session up and dispose of all the stuff without touching it,… So when it got harder to get the bags after the ban went into effect late last year, it became harder to find the bags…

Plenty of people discounted the plastic-bag theory but San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was not one of them.

“Yes, absolutely, we know people use the bags for that,” she said. “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.”

Note, the article from which the above quote is taken (and comments by locals) are worth a read.

Only 2,400 kits distributed in mid-September? Each person would need several kits per day!

What else is SD doing?  Portable hand-washing stations, opened a tent city (LINK), more toilets, lots of free vaccinations.  More on sanitation efforts:  (LINK)

On SD homeless Veterans (LINK)

Class-action lawsuit against SD by those who must sleep in their cars (LINK)

Timelines (LINK);   (LINK)


Couldn’t find much more from the SD VA but I expect they are doing outreach.

The SD strain has spread to other towns, including one in Arizona.  Know anything more about this?  We tend to think HAV isn’t such a big deal.


About Laura

NW Vermont.
This entry was posted in All about Veterans, Food for thought, General Messages, Guest authors, hepatitis, hepatitis A (HAV), VA Health Care, VA statistics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hepatitis A: severe illness and deaths hit San Diego homeless population

  1. Kiedove says:

    Ron, I’m okay with these particular vaccines. I’m not protected against A or B so am looking at a combination vaccine that has to be taken several times over the months for the best protection.

    I had my flu shot today because that is something I want my immune system to recognize and kill–when my immune system goes after harmless environmental agents, it’s not good for me. EX. pollen = headaches and nasal issues.

    The VA in SD really needs to get out on the streets because studies have shown that homeless veterans migrate. Those enrolled are tracked when they use the VA so they have solid facts they can use to help find carriers from spreading viruses far and wide. About 1/3 of those in SD sickened with HAV are NOT homeless and they might have used a public computer in a library, touched contaminated door handles, or been exposed many other points of possible exposure. Plus SD is a big tourist and convention hub. About 48K people work at the Naval base. I’m sure the CDC is tracking this because it might be hard to stop with everyone traveling in and out of this popular destination.

  2. Ron says:

    I suppose that it would be counter productibe to ask where the Public Health Service is now?
    Oh wait, they are too busy thinking of new ways to spend all that grant money from the vaccine makers to cover up their inclusion of up to 35,000 times the amount of mercury in each worthless flu shot that only works in less than 5 percent of the public, according to recent research.
    Just like the EPA was too busy spending their grant money from such lovely people as Dow Chemical and other such to cover up what Agent Orange was doing to our returning vet from Nam.
    Or those cash bonus’ to VA rating board “personnel” that get bonus points for promotion for keeping vets from getting properly rated. Just thinking here.

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