Poverty is a condition that not only can be seen, but also smelled. The dense cloud of bacteria that is floating over the sky of Kensington not only represents the misfortune of indigence, it also spreads the stench of social decomposition. Stink is part of the largest opioid epidemic in the county’s history, and it has caused an outbreak of Hepatitis A that worries the Health Services.
A stroll through the streets of Kensington conjures up Africanized, Latin American metaphors, favelas recreated in the richest country in the world, but which has no answers to poverty and which acts when an infectious condition threatens to spread.
There are thousands of homeless in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. Many scenes shown daily in the second state of the Union look like “portals” to streets in New Delhi, India, where herds of humans live in shacks under bridges and on river banks.
Those thousands of homeless use the public places to defecate. In addition, they mark corners with their mictions and it is difficult for perception to avoid the serious health problem that is already knocking on the doors of the neighbors around who take care of their jobs, pay taxes and have to raise their children in one of the most depressed and biologically dangerous neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
In short, the indiscriminate dumping of human waste on the streets of Kensington and many other places in Philadelphia is causing an outbreak of Hepatis A that is on the rise and that has many alarmed.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a statement more than a month ago warning about the outbreak of liver disease.
This is a contagious liver infection disease whose bacteria is found in the feces of infected people and can be spread by eating contaminated food, sexual contact, and drug use.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, recently presented to the media the data supporting the declaration of hepatitis A as an outbreak: 171 cases in 36 counties as of January 2018.
Philadelphia’s health authorities sounded the alarm this month about an upsurge in reports of the infectious disease. The number of cases citywide, about 30 a year, has quintupled in the last two years. According to health department data most people at risk are those who are struggling against homelessness and drug addiction.
Health officials wrote in a July 19 report published by the local press, that three-quarters of the hepatitis A cases documented in Philadelphia since May were among adults who reported drug use. More than a quarter were homeless.
Kensington’s homeless “encampments” burst into public view two years ago after the much-criticized closure of “El Campamento,” a larger bivouac that existed for decades along the Conrail railroad tracks along Lehigh Avenue.
Somerset Neighbors for Better Living, a local civic group, suggested providing shower and bathroom trucks for the people living there. Other cities, such as Minneapolis, have established “hand-sanitizing stations” to help restraint the spread of disease in areas where people are living on the streets.
Translated by: José Espinoza