Philly has declared a public health emergency after a Hepatitis A outbreak this week, and some officials hope public restrooms will curb the problem.
The city is installing hand washing stations in Kensington over the next few weeks and they plan to put in public toilets and bathroom facilities when possible, PlanPhilly first reported. In a statement Friday, Philly’s Managing Director, Brian Abernathy said the toilets will take more time because the city needs to ensure they’re safe and secure.
“We also want to consult with community groups prior to making a decision because they were originally split over pubic bathrooms, fearing they would encourage more people to stay in the neighborhood,” Abernathy added in the statement.
The plan comes as a response to a Hepatitis A outbreak that’s been sweeping through the city this summer. On Thursday, the Department of Public Health announced that the outbreak warranted a public health emergency and instructed health care providers to help vaccinate those who are most at risk of spreading the virus. The city is also helping reach out to homeless people to provide vaccinations.
Philly generally sees up to six cases of Hepatitis A annually, but this year they’ve seen 154 cases since January, according to a statement from the Public Health Department. Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that spreads via fecal matter. According to the health department, there is an effective vaccine against Hepatitis A, but many adults haven’t received it. People who use drugs and homeless people are more at-risk of contracting the virus.
The health department is working with homeless shelters, hospitals, the Department of Prisons, and other city agencies to promote vaccinations, according to the statement.