After 15 die in hepatitis outbreak, San Diego begins sanitary street washing

After 15 die in a hepatitis outbreak, San Diego begins sanitary street washing, including use of portable sinks. 
Paul Sisson

Sanitary street washing will commence in downtown San Diego and will continue every other week to combat the city’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said Friday.

The city responded to a letter sent by San Diego County Thursday, asking the city to move forward with a list of specific sanitation actions designed to help control the spread of the disease, which has killed 15 people and hospitalized nearly 300, many of them homeless and living on streets without adequate access to restrooms or showers.

The county gave the city five business days to respond with a plan for remedying what it called a “fecally contaminated environment” downtown. The county will soon expand its efforts to other cities in the region, where the outbreak has now produced nearly 400 confirmed cases.

The county moved forward last weekend with its own contractor, who installed 40 hand-washing stations in areas where the homeless often gather. There are plans, according to the city’s letter, to add more stations next week.

In addition to regularly pressure-washing dirty city right-of-ways with chlorinated water, the county also asked the city to “immediately expand access to public restrooms and wash stations within the city limits that are adjacent to at-risk populations.”

The mayor’s office provided no additional information on public restroom access except a three-page list of existing facilities, some of which are open 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, additional San Diego police escorts will be provided for the county’s mobile vaccination teams and expanded vaccination clinics will be opened at public libraries.

It was not clear Friday evening whether the county considered the city’s response adequate. County communications director Michael Workman said in a brief email that the document was “being reviewed and evaluated.”


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