Seattle, WA

Hospitalizations Amongst Homeless Rise Due To Disease In Seattle

Matt Lillywhite

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Together with an infectious gastrointestinal disease that spread among people who are homeless in King County last year, government authorities believe other diseases affecting the same demographic are on the increase, fuelled by a scarcity of hygiene options available during the Covid-19 crisis.

In previous years, shigellosis affected people who had homes, with two to three cases a week on average in December. However, it  sickened at least 37 people in December, 31 of whom were homeless.

More than 100 people who are homeless and mostly live outside have contracted the infection since the end of October. In addition, more than 60% of all shigellosis cases resulted in hospitalisation, with serious complications such as diarrhoea and dehydration.

The cause of the epidemic is still unknown, according to Public Health. Where there is a shortage of safe drinking water, sanitation, and handwashing services, infectious diseases spread quickly among the homeless.

Shigellosis is caused by the Shigella bacteria. Diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps are common symptoms of infection. After an infection, symptoms normally appear one or two days later. They have a seven-day duration.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Seattle installed portable sinks and toilets in some areas to improve sanitation, but homeless activists and some city council members argue that this is insufficient.

In a statement, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) admitted that it needs to ensure the new facillities are accessible, durable, and won't inadvertently spread disease amongst the homeless. Quoting the general manager: “We need to conform to a ton of different regulations and guidelines."

On tuesday, SPU also said that it's looking through applications from charities and non-profits to implement more sink systems in the region. "SPU plans to announce the grant recipients in the next few days and will work with them on any remaining technical and regulatory requirements, including ADA accessibility so that deployment can occur."

Have you been recently affected by the outbreak in Seattle? Let me know in the comments.

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