Update: 17 Dead, 461 Sickened in San Diego Hepatitis a Outbreak

More areas getting sprayed down with bleach
September 28, 2017 Updated: September 28, 2017    

The death toll in San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak has increased, according to public health officials.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency said that now 17 people have died from the illness while 315 people have been hospitalized. There have been 461 cases as of Sept. 26, 2017.

San Diego Police on Wednesday moved people from two homeless encampments in San Diego’s East Village neighborhood in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease, CBS8 reported It comes two weeks after officials sprayed downtown sidewalks with bleach to kill off the bug.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune on Sept. 27, the city on Wednesday began “power-washing sidewalks with bleach in more neighborhoods” in the city to curb the bug’s spread.

“We’re trying to find out where people went,” said Bob McElroy, president and CEO of the Alpha Project. “My teams are going to go down to the river bed to see if they’re down there. They’re out looking for them.”

City crews started spraying sidewalks down with bleach on Sept. 11, but now, they’re bleaching areas in Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Midway. They’ll start cleaning parts of Mid-City and Uptown San Diego on Friday.

Crews are also removing trash in many areas.

“It’s been like Bangladesh over there for a year and a half,” McElroy said.

Some homeless people were arrested, according to police and witnesses.

“They just rolled up on them, got out their car, took the tent, took them to jail,” said a 59-year-old homeless man who identified himself as “Street.” “They took me to jail and charged me for encroachment,” Street added. “The cells where dirty, trash everywhere, a lot of homeless.”

San Diego Police told CBS8 that along with clearing out homeless camps, they’ve also been working to provide services for the homeless—including showing up with nurses with hepatitis A vaccinations.

On spraying bleach on the sidewalk, one expert says it’s a good idea.

“If there’s a sanitation problem, then the thing to do is clean up the area, and bleach is probably the best disinfectant that we have for this type of viral infection,” Mike Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, told NPR.

“The majority of people who have contracted hepatitis A are homeless and/or illicit drug users, although some cases have been neither,” the agency stated in an update posted on Tuesday. “The outbreak is being spread person-to-person and through contact with a fecally contaminated environment.”

Dr. Wilma Wooten of San Diego County said that “until the numbers start dropping, we won’t have a clear indication of whether we have turned the corner or not,” reported The Los Angeles Times this week. Laboratories at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed the current case counts, Wooten said, adding that her office is waiting for an 18th death to be confirmed.