Hepatitis A outbreak: Vaccinations given to those who work with the homeless

Outside the Midnight Mission on Skid Row, men women and children eat, sleep and try to survive.

"I try to stay clean, get food, Get rest, stay safe, stay alive," says homeless Jake who didn't want to give his last name.

Now a new worry: LA health officials announced a Hepatitis A outbreak with 10 cases here in Los angels. The most vulnerable? The homeless and those who work with them.

"We serve almost 1,000,000 meals a year," says Georgia Berkovich, Public Affairs director of The Midnight Mission. "We interact with the homeless so we are double washing produce, we are making sure everyone is wearing gloves, we always do but even more so now."

The Midnight Mission's staff and residents were given vaccinations back in August and free shots are offered through the LA department of health. Hepititus A is food or fecal born and easily transmissible, says Ged Kenslea from the AIDS Health Foundation. "To be crude, we cannot allow people to just defecate on the sidewalks," he says.

According to a new report by homeless advocacy groups- there are only 9 public toilets available at night for the 1,800 people living on the streets of Skid Row. That's less than the same population in a Syrian refugee camp. Without decent sanitation options, health officials warn this could hit epidemic proportions.

"Hep A is not to be treated lightly. Sixteen people out of 400 have already died. This can be a lethal infection," says Kenslea. He also points to the five empty seats in the Los Angeles Health Commission as problematic.

"The commission was set up to deploy and react to situations like this and 5 councilmembers have still not appointed health commissioners," says Kenslea.

Free vaccines are available. If you'd like to find the nearest location in LA dial 211.

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