The streets of Los Angeles are currently being cleaned with bleach: Not because this is a normal protocol, but because there has been a sudden outbreak of Hepatitis A, a contagious disease that harms the liver.
Health authorities in LA announced the epidemic after San Diego saw 16 people lose their lives from the outbreak, with nearly 450 people contracting it since last November. Although the numbers are quite low in LA compared to San Diego, and even Santa Cruz, which has seen 69 confirmed hepatitis cases, action is being taken because two of the 10 LA cases cannot be traced to either San Diego or Santa Cruz, which makes it an outbreak.
"We've met the definition for an outbreak," said LA County Department of Public Health Director, Dr Barbara Ferrer, according to Associated Press. "As of this morning, we've confirmed that we have two community acquired cases."
The main cause of this flare-up is likely to be down to the city's homeless residents having limited access to services to help them stay clean and healthy. Dr Ferrer has stated that their division will be instigating prevention methods so nobody else faces the fear of getting ill. This includes making it a topic of conversation and raising awareness on the matter, as well as helping with the hygiene of the homeless.
There are many ways the virus can be caught and passed on. It can happen when an infected person’s feces comes into close contact with someone else. In other cases, it could be drinking contaminated water or having sex with someone who also has Hepatitis A. For some people the symptoms may not be overt or even noticeable, but if left untreated it stops allowing the liver to work, and could lead to death.
Ferrer announced that 40,000 vaccinations will be shared amongst the homeless in Los Angeles. “We are very early in an outbreak and the more people who get vaccinated in the high-risk populations... the smaller the outbreak will end up being in LA County,” Ferrer said. “This is, in fact, a disease that’s preventable.”
Reportedly, those who have been infected by the virus were either homeless or using illicit drugs. Unfortunately, it seems that those who were helping with the outbreak have also been infected too.
Ferrer urged people who are worried about infection to see a doctor, adding: “If you’re older than 18 and you haven’t been vaccinated, this might be a good time for you to get vaccinated.”
[H/T: The Washington Post]