NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The Orleans Parish coroner is issuing a warning about homeless encampments around the city, calling them “disease time bombs.”

In a statement from Dr. Dwight McKenna, he says “Nowhere is the breakdown of public health more obvious than in ‘tent cities’ and other locations where homeless people gather.” He also cited homeless populations in cities across the country that have been breeding grounds for numerous illnesses, such as:

  • Hepatitis A: Reported in San Diego, where there is an ongoing outbreak among the homeless that has already hospitalized nearly 300 people and taken the lives of 16 people.
  • Streptococcus: Recently, a deadly strain that killed three homeless people in Anchorage.
  • Shigella: A food borne illness that causes blood diarrhea, spread among Portland’s
    homeless population.
  • Tuberculosis: Has been linked to homelessness. Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading
    infectious cause of morbidity and mortality in adults worldwide, killing about 2 million people every year. A resurgence of TB associated with several factors, including HIV, homelessness, and a deteriorated public health infrastructure.
  • Cholera: An acute infection of the small bowel which secretes a toxin that produces
    copious watery diarrhea, leading to dehydration, and contaminated water or seafood. Cholera as spread by ingestion of water, seafood and other foods contaminated by the excrement of people with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection.
  • Salmonella Infections: To include Typhoid Fever which is a systemic disease caused by
    Salmonella typhi. Symptoms are high fever, prostration, abdominal pain and a rose-colored
    rash. The way to prevent this includes drinking water which should be purified. Sewage should be disposed of effectively, milk should be pasteurized, chronic carriers should avoid handling food, and adequate patient isolation precautions should be implemented.
  • Addiction and/or mental illness are the root causes in a substantial number of homeless
    cases, allowing homeless people to do whatever they want is no longer a viable solution.
  • Infectious Disease: Outbreaks demonstrate that squalor is a threat not only to them but
    to society as a whole. Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. It is dangerous, costly and inhumane.

“The luxury of modern life is due to the strong defense provided by the ‘pillars’ of our public
health system,” said McKenna.

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