Nation

Calif. county declares emergency amid hepatitis outbreak

SAN DIEGO — Officials in San Diego County have declared a public health emergency because of the spread of the liver disease hepatitis A.

Infections have killed 15 people and hospitalized 400 more, with the homeless hit hardest since the outbreak started last November. Friday’s declaration helps the county request state assistance and gives legal protection for new sanitation measures.

Those measures include about 40 portable hand-washing stations for areas with concentrations of homeless. The virus lives in human feces and spreads if people don’t properly clean their hands.

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Crews also plan to use bleach-spiked water for high-pressure washing to remove ‘‘all feces, blood, bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces,’’ according to a sanitation plan included in a letter delivered to the San Diego city officials.

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In the coming weeks, other cities in the region will see hand-washing and street-sanitizing efforts, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the region’s public health officer.

ASSOCIATED PRESS