San Diego Opens Tents for the Homeless to Contain Hepatitis A Outbreak

Reuters/Mike Blake
Rows of tents are seen at the city's works yard as the city of San Diego opens a transitional camp area for homeless people following a hepatitis A breakout in San Diego, California, U.S., October 9, 2017.

San Diego recently opened the first of three industrial tents that will provide temporary housing to homeless people as part of the city's efforts to contain the hepatitis A outbreak that is currently spreading across California.

The two other tents will be opened sometime later this month. Each tent will be able to house 350 single men and women. With over 3,000 homeless people living in San Diego, the city hopes to get these people off the streets and contain the hepatitis A outbreak.

The San Diego Housing Commission and City Council have allocated $6.5 million so that the tents will be operational for at least seven months. Three providers — The Alpha Project, Father Joe's Villages and Veterans Village of San Diego — will provide basic services, including mental health care, medical assistance and housing navigators, to those who are admitted to the tents.

The housing program is a temporary solution with homeless people slated to only stay for 120 days. About 65 percent are expected to move into permanent housing.

San Diego's industrial tents, which follow the 200-capacity campgrounds set up in October, is the city's response to the hepatitis A outbreak that has spread at an alarming rate.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the state is currently experiencing the largest person-to-person hepatitis A outbreak in the United States since the vaccine was made available in 1996. Most of the patients have been noted to be homeless, with the virus having spread through contaminated food or water, as well as with drug use and having sex.

Symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection include yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain, pale stools and dark urine, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of Nov. 24, there have been 665 cases in California which have resulted in 426 hospitalizations and 21 deaths. Though the outbreak is also ongoing in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and other cities, San Diego is the most affected with 561 reported cases.

The Hepatitis A outbreak has also affected Michigan and Utah.

As of Nov. 29, the state of Michigan has a total of 555 reported cases. Initially sweeping Mid-Michigan and Southeast Michigan, the outbreak has now reportedly spread to Isabella County.

Meanwhile, recent reports noted that Utah has now reached 95 outbreak-related cases.