City of El Cajon outlines plan to fight hepatitis A outbreak

EL CAJON, Calif. -- As the hepatitis A death toll continues to climb in San Diego County, the City of El Cajon isn’t taking any chances.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, staff detailed extensive efforts the East County community is taking to defend against the disease.

“Many different staff members have verbally been requested by our colleagues of other cities of what we have been doing and how we got out ahead of this,” said Assistant City Manager Graham Mitchell.

El Cajon has taken aggressive action against the outbreak, including installing 38 hand-washing stations at city parks, with recent approval for more at Prescott Promenade, the county library and trolley stations.

Crews have also been busy power-washing sidewalks, curbs and benches with a bleach solution. All city restrooms are also being cleaned with hepatitis A cleansers. City staff has also requested MTS to do the same at all trolley platforms.

“El Cajon has been very proactive in getting out ahead of this,” said Bill Wells, mayor of El Cajon. “We worked really hard to make sure as soon as we heard about it we were acting moving and not waiting and I think we’ve done as good of a job as we can.”

Wells said of the 416 cases of hepatitis A in the county, some are from El Cajon.

“The County has told us there are cases that have come from the El Cajon area, that we should definitely be taking this seriously, but we don’t know how many cases,” said Wells.

The mayor said more than 500 vaccines have been administered and the numbers increase by the day.

“I’ve had the first of two shots,” said Martha Jones Rose, who is homeless and calls Prescott Promenade home.

She said the spread of the disease has her worried.

“All it takes is one to have an epidemic,” said Rose.

She said she had the shot 5 months ago, when the concern of hepatitis A first surfaced in the homeless community.

“I’m concerned it’s going to have larger numbers than people thought or might think,” said Rose.

She said extra sinks and cleaning from the City are a step in the right direction, but what’s really needed are round-the-clock public restrooms for the homeless.

“It wouldn’t hurt El Cajon to invest the money in something similar along with the port-a-potties,” said Rose.