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City Council Moves Forward On System Of Portable Bathrooms Amid Hepatitis A Outbreak

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City Council approved Friday a plan to create a system of portable restrooms, which will provide more public access to clean restrooms in order to address the city's hepatitis A outbreak. Councilman Mike Bonin introduced the idea last week, which calls on City Council to draw up resources for funding and locations. It also requires the City Attorney to contribute a report on the laws governing the placement of toilets in locations like city-owned parking lots.

The system will be modeled off the "Pit Stop" program in San Francisco. The program is a partnership between Bay Area Rapid Transit and the City of San Francisco that provides public restrooms at 17 locations throughout the area; it uses portable toilets that are removed nightly for cleaning, as well as semi-permanent, self-cleaning toilets (a few of which are already present in L.A.'s Skid Row). In San Francisco, Pit Stop operates in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, the Mission, and South of Market.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the outbreak earlier this month. While the outbreak has been primarily concentrated in San Diego (the city has seen 490 cases and 19 deaths), at least two cases of hepatitis A in Los Angeles were acquired locally and had no connection to the outbreak in San Diego or to a separate, smaller outbreak in Santa Cruz.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through feces, and is contracted when the virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person, according to the CDC. Homeless populations rarely have access to consistent clean restrooms, putting them at a much higher risk for contraction of the disease. Providing access to clean, sanitary bathrooms is an important step in preventing further transmission of hepatitis A.

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The lack of bathrooms has been especially apparent in Skid Row, which has only nine toilets serving the 1,800-person area at night, according to a recent report. Protesters went to City Hall this week to remind Councilmembers of this statistic and to urge implementation of a system of portable restrooms.