top of page

Hepatitis A Outbreak Amongst Homeless in LA: A Growing Crisis in May 2024

In May 2024, Los Angeles is grappling with a significant public health crisis: an outbreak of Hepatitis A among the homeless population. This situation underscores the urgent need for enhanced public health measures, better sanitation, and increased support for vulnerable communities.

Understanding Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It typically spreads through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through direct contact with an infectious person. The virus can cause a range of symptoms, from mild illness to severe liver disease. While it is preventable through vaccination, those without access to healthcare or living in unsanitary conditions are at higher risk.

The Scope of the Outbreak

Los Angeles, like many major cities, faces a significant homelessness issue. According to recent reports, over 66,000 people are experiencing homelessness in LA County. The unsanitary conditions and close living quarters prevalent in many homeless encampments create an environment where Hepatitis A can spread rapidly.

As of May 2024, public health officials have reported a sharp increase in Hepatitis A cases within this population. Initial estimates suggest hundreds of individuals have been affected, with the number potentially rising if immediate action is not taken.

Factors Contributing to the Outbreak

Several factors contribute to the heightened vulnerability of the homeless population to Hepatitis A:

  1. Poor Sanitation: Limited access to clean restrooms, showers, and handwashing facilities significantly increases the risk of Hepatitis A transmission.

  2. Close Quarters: Many homeless individuals live in crowded encampments, where the virus can easily spread from person to person.

  3. Limited Access to Healthcare: Without regular access to healthcare, many individuals may not receive the Hepatitis A vaccine or prompt medical treatment if they become infected.

  4. Substance Abuse: Substance abuse, prevalent among the homeless population, can further compromise the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

Public Health Response

In response to the outbreak, Los Angeles County Public Health Department has initiated several measures:

  1. Vaccination Campaigns: Mobile vaccination units have been deployed to homeless encampments, shelters, and community centers to provide free Hepatitis A vaccinations.

  2. Sanitation Efforts: Increased efforts to provide portable restrooms, handwashing stations, and hygiene kits are underway to improve sanitary conditions.

  3. Education and Outreach: Public health officials are conducting outreach programs to educate the homeless population about Hepatitis A prevention, symptoms, and the importance of seeking medical care.

  4. Collaboration with Non-Profits: Partnerships with non-profit organizations are being strengthened to ensure comprehensive support, including housing, healthcare, and substance abuse treatment.

The Need for Long-Term Solutions

While immediate measures are crucial, this outbreak highlights the need for long-term solutions to address the underlying issues contributing to homelessness and public health crises.


Addressing this crisis requires immediate action and a commitment to long-term solutions. By improving sanitation, increasing access to healthcare, and providing shelter

Written by Lee Phillips


bottom of page