Mayor announces three tent shelters around San Diego for homeless

Homeless veterans tents

Amid an outbreak across San Diego County that health officials say has led to 16 deaths and almost 300 hospitalizations, workers were power-washing areas in downtown San Diego earlier this week with water laced with chlorine and bleach, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti talks with Dr. Wilma Wooten, a San Diego public health official, about the outbreak.

The situation has become so dire that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared a local health emergency on September 1, 2017 in order to "raise awareness of the outbreak and allow the County to potentially ask for mutual aid if necessary".

A total of 256 mass vaccination events as well as 109 "foot teams" consisting of public health nurses who have been deployed into areas heavily populated with homeless people to offer vaccinations.

Health officials in San Diego County said the disease is spreading "through contact with a fecally contaminated environment".

Crews will clean the streets again Wednesday and Friday, and then again every other week to attempt to control the outbreak.

Hepatitis A is considered highly contagious, according to the CDC, and attacks the liver. To do so, San Diego will be power washing its streets with bleach, to "hopefully remove all feces, blood, bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces", according to a sanitation plan report. "It makes sense that, if they're doing it there and they haven't had any cases, it could be beneficial here as well".

About 40 portable hand-washing stations are being installed in areas with concentrations of homeless, the Associated Press reports.

This year, according to a study led by the University of New Hampshire statistician Chris Glynn, and sponsored by the real estate database company Zillow, the number of people living in the street might have duplicated comparing with the last year.

"Frankly we can't take any more time worrying what group will be offended, lives are on the line, we need to take action", the mayor said.

San Diego's homeless population has skyrocketed - the number of people living on downtown streets is up some 27 percent to almost 1,300, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. It seems to have primarily affected the homeless population and the city's illicit drug users. They recommend that those who are at high risk, including homeless San Diegans and those who work with the homeless, get vaccinated.

San Diego County did not immediately respond to an NPR query about whether it is satisfied with the city's response.

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