County declares health emergency over hepatitis A outbreak

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SAN DIEGO – The County of San Diego Friday declared a local health emergency for an outbreak of hepatitis A that has claimed 15 lives and sent more than 260 people to hospitals.

County public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, signed the declaration.

The declaration will help the county Health and Human Services Agency ask the state for assistance and provide legal protections, the Union-Tribune reported.

Additional portable hand-washing stations were installed around San Diego Friday in an effort to combat the outbreak.

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 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, were expected to be set up Saturday.

The action comes a day after 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.”