Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless

David Trammel's picture

Lack of sanitation and medical care is worse when you are homeless. This can directly lead to life threatening illnesses.

Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless - Typhus, tuberculosis, and other illnesses are spreading quickly through camps and shelters.

"Infectious diseases—some that ravaged populations in the Middle Ages—are resurging in California and around the country, and are hitting homeless populations especially hard. Los Angeles recently experienced an outbreak of typhus—a disease spread by infected fleas on rats and other animals—in downtown streets. Officials briefly closed part of City Hall after reporting that rodents had invaded the building. People in Washington State have been infected with the diarrheal disease shigella, spread through feces, as well as Bartonella quintana, or trench fever, which spreads through body lice. Hepatitis A, also spread primarily through feces, infected more than 1,000 people in Southern California in the past two years. The disease also has erupted in New Mexico, Ohio, and Kentucky, primarily among people who are homeless or use drugs.

Public-health officials and politicians are using terms like disaster and public-health crisis to describe the outbreaks, and they are warning that these diseases can easily jump beyond the homeless population. “Our homeless crisis is increasingly becoming a public-health crisis,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in his State of the State speech in February, citing outbreaks of hepatitis A in San Diego County, syphilis in Sonoma County, and typhus in Los Angeles County."


As the next phase of collapse picks up, more of us could land on hard times. Knowing basic sanitation and preventative health care, often using natural herbal medicines will become important.

meta4's picture

We used to live in Portland and this news isn't surprising at all. Most of the public spaces available to those living houseless tend to get quite muddy during the wet season, often 8 months out of the year. Close quarters coupled with improvised waste disposal is a recipe for disease. I think the late great Daniel Quinn observed that the houseless were essentially the first group to turn away from the dominate culture, however reluctantly. Quinn had this suggestion:

"Don't try to drive the homeless into places we find suitable. Help them survive in places they find suitable."

To some extent the City of Portland seemed to attempt this by providing dumpsters and porta-potties nearby the camps. The still-housed generally aren't very receptive and since they're still paying tribute to the officials, aka taxes, the police invariably show up to disperse the campers and... the whole thing repeats. I suspect at some point city officials will figure out that it's cheaper to just provide free public campgrounds which they can then have some control over to minimize problems with waste and disease. They really have no choice; the houseless population isn't going away any time soon and mostly will be increasing.

mountainmoma's picture

I live outside Santa Cruz, we should not be receptive to public health hazards in the middle of public spaces in the middle of cities. There are many public safety issues, disease, fire danger, theft, etc..... Portapotties are often ignored, they are provided big time. This is even worse in San Francisco, everything was provided, free food, free tents and sleeping bags, free needles, sterile water and tie off kits, trash cans and portapotties and lots of them. But, the results are still bad. Not only will the drug using ones not bother to walk 50 ft to the portapotty or trash can, some go out of their way to make public health worse. Example, I was in San Francisco, and needed to walk a few blocks, I was with my daughter. The sidewalk ahead was covered in tents, so we had to walk in the street, as we walked by the area a tent resident, who eveidentally had just finished shooting up, purposefully throw his bloody cotton ball at us as we walked by. Luckily cotton balls have horrible aerodynamics. But, look around the rest of the world. Nowere else, no developing nation or third world nation would allow this, only the guilt ridden spots, like SF, portland, etc... But the rest of the world does not allow public health hazards in the middle of the city center, this is a recipe for disease transmission to the general population. Look to the rest of the world, homeless camps, which if they are let stay in one spot are slums, so slums absolutely exist, and certainly, yes, people need to live/sleep somewhere. But not in the middle of the park where the children play in the middle of the city ! Nowhere but here, we are so guilty and so stupid about the potential for public health problems. We think we are immune to them.