Medieval Diseases Running Rampant Throughout California's Homeless Population
Diseases once linked to the squalor of medieval living are back with a vengeance in California and other states with experts linking the diseases’ rise to an increase in the homeless population.
“In major cities in the U.S., we hear about increasing numbers of encampments and people living in squalor,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, according to the Los Angeles Times.“Those conditions are ideal for increase in vermin like rats.”
Fleas on rats are key to the spread of typhus. A typhus outbreak recently led to the closing of City Hall in Los Angeles amid concerns of rats in the building, the Atlantic reported.
“With increased rat density, diseases like typhus are very likely to occur,” said Dr. Lee W. Riley, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
Typhus cases in Los Angeles have risen from 13 in 2008 to 167 from January 1, 2018, through February 1, 2019. Meanwhile, as reported by The Western Journal, homelessness has also bee on the rise.
The danger is not limited to typhus. Washington state has been dealing with a rare diarrheal disease called shigella, spread by feces, and with trench fever, spread by body lice.
“It’s a public-health disaster,” said Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle.
Squalid conditions are cited as the root causes of disease outbreaks.
“You have constant activity that serves as a breeding ground for rats,” Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Association, near Skid Row in Los Angeles, told NBC.
She said “illegally dumping, food being discarded, accumulation of blankets and pillows, and human waste” is creating “Third World conditions.”
One expert said that the more streets are laden with garbage, the more rats thrive.
“Homeless populations increase and the amount of garbage that’s available on the street is increasing — the ability to transmit all this other stuff also increases,” said Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UC Davis.
But as the homeless population swells, containing the garbage piles becomes difficult. The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that city officials lost a round in court in their efforts to clean out homeless encampments.
“The hygiene situation is just horrendous” for people living on the streets, says Glenn Lopez, a physician with St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. “It becomes just like a Third World environment, where their human feces contaminate the areas where they are eating and sleeping.”
Lopez said the danger is not only to the homeless populations, but anyone in the vicinity.
“Even someone who believes they are protected from these infections (is) not,” he said.
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