Hepatitis Outbreak in California

Zoon Politikon with Holly Seeliger

First published at 12:51 UTC on October 12th, 2017.


SAN DIEGO — The hepatitis A outbreak now roiling this well-heeled, coastal city may have had its roots in a baseball game — when the city cleaned up for the 2016 All-Star Game by pushing its homeless out of the touristy areas downtown and into increasingly congested encampments and narrow freeway onramps just east of downtown. The lines of tents stretched for blocks.
At the same time, the city was locking and removing bathrooms to help control the rampant drug and prostitution trade they’d spawned. Hepatitis A is transmitted through contact with feces from an infected person, and in close, unsanitary conditions, the highly contagious virus can spread explosively. So it was only a matter of time, experts say, before cases would surge among the homeless.
“I’m not so much surprised it occurred, but surprised it didn’t occur earlier,” said Dr. Robert Schooley, who chairs the division of infectious diseases at the University of California, San Diego, and currently serves as an informal health adviser to the city’s mayor. “In some ways, it was the perfect storm.”

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