The last time we checked on California’s outbreak of Hepatitis A, a liver-impacting disease transmitted through fecal matter, a 17th person in San Diego had succumbed to the disease.

Public health officials warn that the outbreak could last for months, and possibly years.

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.

That forecast has worried health officials across the state, even in regions where there haven’t yet been cases.

The challenge in this particular outbreak is that most of the infected are homeless, for whom personal hygiene is not typically a significant concern.

Hepatitis A spreads when someone comes in contact with an infected person’s feces — sometimes when hands are not properly washed after going to the bathroom or by changing diapers. The virus can then spread through food, objects, sex or sharing drug paraphernalia.

The city of San Diego has responded to the emergency by power-washing streets and installing hand-washing stations. The city says it will open an encampment for the homeless equipped with tents, showers, restrooms, food security and social services.

Santa Cruz County has distributed nearly 1,400 doses of vaccine, However, more cases are likely because it can take up to 50 days for infected people to show symptoms, said Jessica Randolph, the county’s public health manager.

Furthermore, the disease may spread to other locations as police officer break down encampments and the homeless move to new spots. One of San Diego’s boutique areas is now being affected by a surge.

In recent weeks, Hillcrest has seen a rise in the homeless population since police started breaking up Downtown homeless encampments.

News 8’s Elizabeth Sanchez reports from Hillcrest with more on the unrest this has caused in the community.

In late September, San Diego Police cleared out two homeless encampments in the East Village.

They said the effort to move the homeless out of the Downtown areas was to allow the City to spray down the sidewalks to curb the deadly Hepatitis A outbreak – which has claimed 17 lives in San Diego.

Once the weather gets warmer, the Hepatitis A could travel with the homeless to non-California destinations.


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