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City takes steps to fight Hepatitis A outbreak

SAN DIEGO — Additional portable hand-washing stations were being installed around San Diego Friday in an effort to stem an outbreak of Hepatitis A that has claimed 15 lives and sent more than 260 people to hospitals.

The illness has hit the homeless population particularly hard, prompting county health officials to call for the installation of the stations at 30 locations around the city.

Two had previously been set up, including one on 10th Avenue in downtown.

More were being installed Friday in Balboa Park and the Neil Good Day Center, a facility at 17th and K streets where the homeless can access mail, laundry and other services, according to the county. The rest, mostly downtown, Balboa Park and near the San Diego River, are expected to be set up Saturday.

The action comes a day after the county public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, directed the city to use special sanitizing procedures to wash down areas in the public right-of-way, such as streets and sidewalks, and expand access to restroom and hand-washing facilities.

City officials said they would comply.

“The city continues to stand ready to support the county’s Health and Human Services Agency in its plans to provide vaccinations, sanitation and education to San Diegans as we battle this outbreak,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “We must continue to work collaboratively to stop this crisis and save lives.”

The hepatitis A outbreak also prompted Councilman David Alvarez to call on the mayor Thursday to declare an emergency, and open the vacant former Central Library building or Golden Hall for use as a homeless shelter.

Jonathan Herrera, Faulconer’s senior adviser on homelessness coordination, told City News Service that a state of emergency on homelessness was declared by the mayor last year and approved by the City Council.

County nurses represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 221 demanded that county officials also declare a state of emergency. They further called for the county to hire 30 full-time public health nurses, create the position of chief nursing officer and take measures to ensure the safety of nurses.

The union is in contract talks with the county, and has called for a two- day strike beginning Sept. 12.