AHF President Declares L. A. City’s Homeless Policies a Threat with Outbreak of Hepatitis A

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Homeless Encampment on Willoughby in West Hollywood/ Photo: WEHO TIMES

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today warned that an emerging outbreak of Hepatitis A in Los Angeles that follows a larger statewide outbreak may be both the result of, and further fueled by deplorable living conditions of homeless populations here in Los Angeles. The statewide outbreak, which began in San Diego County, where it has killed at least 16 people and infected almost 450, also spread to Santa Cruz, where it is thought that nearly 70 people became infected, according to reporter Soumya Karlamangla, reporting in the Los Angeles Times

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease and symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and joint pain as well as other flu-like symptoms lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.

The CDC, (https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hav/afaq.htm) explains “Hepatitis A is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person. A person can get Hepatitis A through:

  • Person to person contact
    • when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food
    • when a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person
    • when someone has sex or sexual contact with an infected person. (not limited to anal-oral contact)
  • Contaminated food or water
    • Hepatitis A can be spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. (This can include frozen or undercooked food.) This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. The food and drinks most likely to be contaminated are fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water. In the United States, chlorination of water kills Hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.

According to the World Health Organization “Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is often fatal.”

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County health officials declared a formal outbreak of Hepatitis A after the number of those infected in Los Angeles County rose to 10 individuals—including two who appear to have no connection or link to the outbreaks in San Diego or Santa Cruz.

“We acknowledge County officials for quickly declaring a formal outbreak of Hepatitis A while the actual numbers of cases are still relatively low here; however, this declaration must be followed with immediate and forceful actions:

Portable toilets and hand-washing stations should be deployed immediately and the City of Los Angeles should put an immediate halt to rousting homeless encampments and concentrate instead on improving overall sanitary conditions,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.

Outside Barney’s Beanery/ Photo credit: WEHO TIMES

This outbreak is a result of, and is likely to be further fueled by the deplorable living conditions of homeless populations in Los Angeles. L.A.’s homeless population vastly outnumbers those of any other city, county or region in the state, so the potential for an epidemic is very real. Swift, comprehensive action to halt the spread of infection and care for those infected in Los Angeles must be taken immediately.”

According to a news report earlier this summer in the Los Angeles Times, the homeless population in Los Angeles County as of May 2017 is now nearly 58,000—a jump of 23% since 2016—a development which Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn called at the time, “staggering.”

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About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

(AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 821,000 individuals in 39 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us @aidshealthcare.

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