CA State of Emergency: 500+ Hospitalized After Deadly Disease Outbreak

CA State of Emergency: 500+ Hospitalized After Deadly Disease Outbreak

Gov. Brown has declared a state of emergency in California after a massive hepatitis outbreak ranging up and down the state in the homeless community has killed at least 18 people and infected over 500. This allows state health officials to purchase many more doses of hepatitis A vaccine in order to stem the outbreak. They think this started by cleaning the streets where homeless people were defecating. That caused the disease to spread and become close to an epidemic in the state. Huge numbers of homeless people live in tent cities all over California in the larger cities.

Symptoms include jaundice and flu-like symptoms. Cities all over California are now trying to disinfect their streets and inoculate the homeless. Many of the homeless don’t want to be found for a myriad of reasons. This is the nation’s second largest outbreak in more than two decades. There are over 115,000 homeless people in the state. Laws have been passed that prohibit law enforcement from enforcing housing ordinances, allowing the tent cities to grow uninhibited. The original outbreak started when San Diego tried to clean up the area around Petco Park for the MLB All-Star Game. This caused the homeless to move to other areas. The city in its wisdom locked the public restrooms and the homeless were left with nowhere to relieve themselves. San Diego also banned the use of plastic bags, which have long been used by the homeless to dispose of human waste when there are no public bathrooms. All of this probably has contributed to the outbreak.

“We have the capacity to use as much vaccine as we can get our hands on,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health. San Diego is not the only place where this is spreading… Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties are also now experiencing outbreaks. At last count, 581 people were infected and that was a week ago. I shudder to think how many it is now. The liver virus is particularly dangerous and can be fatal for people who already have other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.

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So far, these are the stats:

  • 490 cases in San Diego County
  • 71 cases in Santa Cruz County
  • 13 cases in Los Angeles County
  • 7 cases elsewhere in the state

The outbreak, according to officials, could last for years. “Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith. The vaccine is already required for children, but health officials are now strongly recommending it for the homeless and drug users. The general population does not have an increased risk of infection at this time. Hepatitis A is usually spread through contaminated food. The only U.S. outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant.

In California, Hepatitis A is spreading person to person because of unsanitary conditions. Any contact with feces and then another person will spread it. The state has distributed 81,000 doses of the vaccine this year. Counties are buying more of their own and this emergency declaration will allow them to get even more. Hepatitis A is particularly hard to control because people can spread the disease before they have symptoms and even know that they have the virus. The virus itself is also highly contagious and can survive in the environment for a long time once it’s introduced.

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton is an editor and writer for Right Wing News. She owns and blogs at She is a Constitutional Conservative and NoisyRoom focuses on political and national issues of interest to the American public. Terresa is the editor at Trevor Loudon's site, New Zeal - She also does research at You can email Terresa here. NoisyRoom can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

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