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Philadelphia Declares Public Health Emergency For Hepatitis A Outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia has declared a public health emergency as hepatitis A cases continue to skyrocket. A major source of the problem is human feces on city streets.

The outbreak is centered in the Kensington area, and city leaders say it's mostly impacting the homeless community and drug users. But they say we all could be at risk.

"I know they're trying to help and down in Kensington, we don't get help down here," Kensington resident Niyad Vaughn said.

Help is on the way to deal with the hepatitis A outbreak. It began with the health department declaring a public emergency Thursday.

"The emergency declaration is to call the healthcare community to partner with us rapidly, to administer vaccines to as many of these folks as we can, as soon as we can, to quell this outbreak," Dr. Steven Alles, with the Philadelphia Department of Health, said.

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Since January, 154 people have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, compared to just 21 cases in all of 2018.

Officials want to vaccinate those most at risk --  drug users and the homeless.

"Vaccinate them against hepatitis A and protect them from getting this and stop this outbreak," Alles said.

In addition to the pop-up shot clinics -- like one this week in Kensington's McPherson Park -- the city will install hand-washing stations in the next couple of weeks to help contain the contagious virus.

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The city also intends to provide public toilets and facilities.

"Great idea to keep us safe and keep our health and bodies clean," resident Lupo Vaughn said.

The city says the emergency will stay in effect until the health commissioner believes the outbreak is contained.

CBS3's Howard Monroe reports.

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