Father Joe’s Village affected by hepatitis A outbreak

SAN DIEGO - A handful of residents at Father Joe’s Village have hepatitis A and leaders for the homeless community are working to contain and then stop the outbreak.

The hepatitis A outbreak as now infected at least 444 people in San Diego and 16 have died from the virulent disease.

"I lost a patient I’ve been working with for two years. It really brought home what we are dealing with here,” said Dr. Jeffrey Norris, the medical director of Father Joe’s Village.

“The outbreak is being spread person-to-person and through contact with a fecal-contaminated environment.  No common sources of food, beverage or drugs have been identified that have contributed to this outbreak,” said county medical officials.

San Diego city and county officials launched a new education effort and are offering free hepatitis A vaccines through December as they seek to curb the outbreak. In downtown, hundreds of vaccinations were given to residents who live and work near the library.

The new effort seeks to inform residents about vaccinations and sanitary precautions to halt the spread of the contagious liver disease which has largely affected the homeless and drug users.

In the past several weeks and months, the city and county have made vaccines free to the public, erected hand-washing stations, opened public restrooms for 24 hours and washed down streets with a bleach solution.

The announcement by the San Diego-area leaders came the same day that Los Angeles officials announced they're dealing with their own outbreak of the disease.