News, Culture & Society

Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego due fecal matter in city

San Diego is covered with fecal matter due to a rising homeless population and lack of public restrooms, which is said to have contributed to the hepatitis A outbreak.

Officials declared a public health emergency in the city after the outbreak killed 15 and infected close to 400 people.

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can spread through ingesting food and drinks that have come in contact with feces from people who are already infected.

County health officials told the city that they needed to come up with a plan to fix the ‘fecally contaminated environment’ that is in the downtown area. 

Officials first attempted to contain the outbreak by providing vaccinations to people and improving educational methods, but the virus continues to spread.

The city is now implementing street washing every other week and an extension on public restroom hours to stop the spread of the virus that has affected the homeless population the most.

The hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County has killed 15 people and infected close to 400. The city is now doing street washing every other week and extending restroom hours to help stop the spread of the disease. They also installed 40 hand-washing stations across the city. One man washed his hands and face with the one of the stations in San Diego

The unsanitary conditions in the downtown area of San Diego have been suspected to fuel the hepatitis A outbreak.

So far, 15 people have died and close to 400 people have been infected with the virus.

In response to the outbreak, the city started a street-washing program on Monday to help rid the city of the deadly virus.

Crews are using bleach-spiked water for high-pressure washing to remove ‘all feces, blood, bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces,’ according to the sanitation plan included in a letter delivered to San Diego city government.

What is hepatitis A and how can it be treated? 

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can have both minor and severe symptoms for the person infected. 

It is primarily spread when a person who isn’t vaccinated ingests food or water that has been contaminated with feces of an infected individual.

The virus is one of the most frequent causes for foodborne infections.


The incubation period of hepatitis A is normally 14 to 28 days. 

People can experience:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea 
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Jaundice 
  • Acute liver failure 

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has never been infected with the hepatitis A virus is at risk. 

Other factors that increase risk include:

  • Poor sanitation
  • Lack of clean water
  • Recreational drug use
  • Living with an infected person or having sexual relations with one
  • Traveling to areas with high risk without a vaccination


There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. 

It may take some people a couple weeks to a couple months to recover from the symptoms. 

Doctors recommend everyone to get a vaccination to help prevent the risk of getting infected by the virus.  

Source: World of Health

The county health officials sent this letter to the city government to encourage a solution for the outbreak.  

Another change being enforced is the extension the hours on 14 restrooms hours located in Balboa Park so people can have 24-hour access.

Areas such as Balboa Park have been targeted for street cleaning and extended restroom access because that of where homeless people tend to sleep.  

Since homeless people are most likely to contract and spread the virus, officials are hoping the targeted areas can help lower the amount of people getting the virus.

These plans are in response to a letter on August 31 that gave the city five days to come up with remedies for the hepatitis A outbreak. 

It cited one of the issues that was occurring was the fact that the downtown area was a ‘fecally contaminated environment.’ 

Hepatitis A is primarily spread if someone ingested food or drinks that have come in contact with feces of someone infected.  

But Craig Stuark, a communications officer at the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, said to Daily Mail Online that no direct cause for the outbreak has been identified.

‘Person-to-person is how it is being transmitted,’ Stuark said. ‘The populations that are being most impacted are homeless and/or illicit drug users.’ 

San Diego County also installed 40 hand-washing stations at the beginning of September to promote better sanitation for people.

Stations were equipped with informative signs about hepatitis A and how it can spread.

The virus is a viral liver disease that can cause severe or minor symptoms depending on the person.  

It is rare for hepatitis A to cause death, but if it is severe enough it will lead to acute liver failure and kill the infected individual. 

Another outbreak in 2003 linked to green onions in Pennsylvania caused three deaths and sent 124 people to hospital.

Hawaii also experienced an outbreak from sushi at the end of 2016 that caused 300 people to become infected.

San Diego officials are monitoring the spread of the virus and the sanitation efforts as they try to contain the outbreak.