A heptatitis outbreak in San Diego among homeless populations coincided with the banning of cheap, disposable, plastic bags.
“The plastic bag ban is the main reason for the hepatitis outbreak,” says [Marty Graham,] the homeless man who writes the Homeless Survival Guide. “The hepatitis outbreak was completely predictable — it’s why I left San Diego.”
Homeless people learned long ago that pooping in plastic-bag-lined containers meant you could wrap the session up and dispose of all the stuff without touching it, he said in a long email. So when it got harder to get the bags after the ban went into effect late last year, it became harder to find the bags and people who were able to keep things clean had to work a lot harder.
This is also a basic hygiene practice in camping and survival contexts so I’m inclined to agree. Digging latrine trenches is not always practical in urban environments.
Plenty of people discounted the plastic-bag theory but San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was not one of them.
“Yes, absolutely, we know people use the bags for that,” she said. “We know people don’t have bathrooms and they can put bags in cans and buckets and maintain good hygiene. That’s why we put plastic bags in the hygiene kits we’re handing out. That’s what we expect people will use them for.” …
Gibson, who is the executive director of the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Gibson doesn’t think it’s as simple as a lack of plastic bags.
“Given what I saw at the Grantville encampment and other smaller ones, I doubt very much that plastic bags would have made much difference,” he said. “I saw firsthand multiple buckets of waste, most likely fecal, at the Grantville site and no shortage of plastic bags. Moreover, at many sites fecal wastes can be found on the ground in the riverbed encampments as well as in and around parking lots with no shortage of bags then or now.”
At the outbreak’s core is the truth that homelessness is “not a healthy way to live for many reasons,” he added. “Not being able or willing to practice basic hygiene measures we take for granted in our homes and businesses is a key part of the public and environmental health issues that transcend something as simple as a ban on plastic bags.”
Of course homelessness isn’t healthy. Until it goes away, however, what do you do for homeless sanitation that’s cheaper than free bathrooms everywhere at taxpayer expense?
Amy Gonyea, the chief operating officer with the Alpha Project (which runs shelters and programs that include transitional and permanent housing for homeless people), said she’s been hearing it’s the lack of those once-plentiful bags that’s spreading the virus among homeless people.
“We have heard the same thing from our clients and our outreach team,” Gonyea said. “We’ve heard it on numerous occasions. Our staff hears it from our clients, and we think they know what they’re talking about.”
The ban was approved in June 2016 and officially took effect in November, about the time the first cases definitively tied to the outbreak showed up. So far, 15 people have died out of about 398 confirmed cases. …
Detroit and (to a lesser degree) Santa Cruz are also in the midst of hepatitis A outbreaks, Wooten said.
Maybe the Big One won’t be an earthquake. Maybe it’ll be an outbreak of super-gonor-herpol-hepat-AIDS. If that dark day comes and the good liberals of California are forced to choose between plagues and plastic bags, which form of their Destructor will they choose? Will they sacrifice their own childrens’ health or the tender feelings of environmentalists? The horror!