LAPD Needs Hepatitis-A Shots

By Sue Pascoe

LAPD officers who routinely deal with the homeless and transients have not been vaccinated for Hepatitis A, according to a November 2 story in the Los Angeles Daily News.

A letter was sent to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors by L.A. Protective League President Craig Lally, asking for “urgent action to ensure the safety of the approximately 1,600 police officers identified by the LAPD who are most at risk of being exposed to Hepatitis A due to their work assignment.”

Hepatitis A is a severe liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is spread from contact with feces (if someone does not wash hands properly), and can also be spread through food, water or objects contaminated with HAV.

“Our officers are placed in direct contact with at-risk populations within their living environments, which have very poor sanitary conditions,” Lally wrote.

Two supervisors, Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger, said they planned to introduce a motion to ensure that law enforcement officials will have the vaccine.

LAPD Officer John Redican, who has worked with the homeless population in Pacific Palisades for the past year, was asked if he had received a Hep-A shot. “We haven’t been contacted by the department about being vaccinated for Hep A, yet. I may get it done on my own,” he said.

Credit: Sharon Kilbride

Redican added that he has not been in this community recently. “I contracted a staph infection and scabies, twice in two months from contacts with homeless individuals and their encampments,” he wrote in an email to the News. “Not fun…..In my opinion and experience, the squalor conditions and overall lack of hygiene is very unsafe for the community.”

The News initially asked the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness if they could pay for the shots for police, as well as L.A. Fire Department paramedics, who are often called to a site when a homeless individual is in medical distress.

But on November 8, the News learned that LAPD officers and first responders will now have the option to get vaccinated through the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

PPTFH’s Sharon Kilbride told the News that the two social workers working with the homeless in this community, Maureen Rivas and Glanda Sherman, have received the Hep-A shots.

Kilbride noted that Sherman has been handing out flyers to transients about free Hep-A vaccinations at public health clinics through L.A. County. The closest is at the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center in Santa Monica.

“I would think our police officers would be the first to receive the vaccination,” Kilbride said. “Crazy.”     

Hepatitis-A symptoms include, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, severe stomach pains and jaundice. The disease can cause liver failure and death, most commonly in people over 50 and those who have other liver ailments, such as Hepatitis B or C.

The vaccination was introduced in the U.S. in 1996, and most children are routinely vaccinated between their first and second birthdays. Two doses of the vaccine are needed for long-lasting protection. Since the vaccination was introduced, the number of cases reported each year in the U.S. has dropped from around 31,000 to fewer than 1,500.

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