City of El Cajon Takes Steps to Combat Hepatitis A Outbreak

The City of El Cajon has opened more bathrooms, added hand washing stations and begun power washing streets

What to Know

  • A public health emergency was declared in San Diego County on September 1, 2017.
  • Hepatitis A is most commonly spread person-to-person through the fecal-oral route.
  • Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and even death.

The City of El Cajon has begun power washing streets with bleach and adding more hand washing stations amid one of the worst Hepatitis A outbreaks in decades.

Since the outbreak began in San Diego County, 16 people have died and two other deaths are being investigated as being related to Hepatitis A. There have been 444 confirmed cases with an additional 44 cases that are considered suspicious, according to county officials.

Most of the cases were in Downtown San Diego, El Cajon, Santee, La Mesa, and the adjacent unincorporated areas, county officials said. El Cajon had 37 confirmed cases, officials said.

In an effort to keep that number from growing, authorities began power washing sidewalks with bleach and water on Thursday. The Prescott Promenade off East Main was one of the locations to be disinfected Thursday. 

City restrooms will also be cleaned using cleansers effective against Hepatitis A. 

The city currently has 38 handwashing stations/sinks at city parks and has approved stations for the following locations:

  • Prescott Promenade
  • Wells Park
  • County Library
  • Trolley Stations

Authorities plan to install more handwashing stations throughout El Cajon. 

The city has also requested MTS to power wash the trolley station platforms.

The El Cajon Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team will accompany county nurses while they administer Hepatitis A vaccinations.

According to the city, they have administered approximately 700 vaccines to high-risk individuals in El Cajon.

But some, like Lisa Taylor, who is homeless, are concerned all these efforts will go unnoticed by people living on the streets.

"How are they gonna get word out that there are places you can wash up and go to the bathroon now, what are they gonna do?" she asked. "Nothing."

Nearby business owners are happy about the clean up effort, but are also mindful of future maintenance.

"As long at the city keeps up with cleaning it, we don't have a problem," said Rowda Bosley of East County Choppers Hair Salon. "But if they don't, then we do have a problem, because then there's odor, there's stench, there's disease."

Meanwhile, there have been grumblings about cleanliness at other East County parks. In Lakeside, bathrooms at Lindo Lake Park are locked at night.

"I don't think that people that come that come out here have a place to get cleaned up at all or care about hygiene," said Maggie O'Brien, a Lakeside resident. "So, I wouldn't sit on any of the benches or anything."

Questions to County officials, who maintain Lindo Lake Park, were not immediately returned.

Hepatitis A is a serious disease that attacks the liver and can be life-threatening. Vaccines are available at no charge to uninsured individuals at any of the county's public health centers.

Given the incubation period of 15 to 50 days, health officials expect the outbreak to continue an additional six months.

The City of San Diego has been taking precautions--power washing sidewalks, setting up free vaccination clinics and putting handwashing stations at high-risk areas.

To learn more about the Hepatitis A outbreak, click here.

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