Shigella outbreak in South Bay homeless encampments

In Santa Clara County, public health officials are warning about an outbreak of gastrointestinal disease. 

They're seeing cases of shigella, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, in several homeless encampments. They're really hoping to stop the spread.

This came to light when several people ended up in the hospital. Now, officials are heading out to the encampments to find out just how widespread the outbreak is.

There is concern in the San Jose encampments that the disease is spreading like wildfire.

"The health people came out, and they said people had diarrhea or stomachaches," said Cindy Locs, who is homeless.

Diarrhea and stomachaches are just some of the symptoms of shigella.

The highly contagious bacterial infection is spread through feces and poor hygiene and Santa Clara County is seeing an outbreak among the homeless.

They have three confirmed cases and another 23 likely.

"Really we're working aggressively to make sure that it doesn't spread further beyond the population or encampments that we have been seeing reported illness in. I think that's our main goal right now," says Monika Roy, assistant health officer with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

So public health officials are doing outreach, bringing testing kits and hygiene kits with them.

And city officials are working on sanitation. 

They're adding portable toilets, handwashing stations, and fresh water. They're also trying to keep an eye on the creeks and keep people from moving around.

"Sure that we are not displacing or moving anybody in the areas of Roosevelt Park or Columbus Park, so we don't further exacerbate our spread," says Kip Harkness, San Jose deputy city manager.

Shigella is so contagious it is hard to contain. And while most people recover on their own after 5 to 7 days, some, especially in vulnerable populations, require antibiotics.

"They already have preexisting health conditions, so this puts them over the edge. Diarrhea can do that. Dehydration can do that," says Pastor Scott Wagers of Cham Ministry, a homeless advocate.

Locs said she'd love to see better hygiene here and a real clean-up effort. But so far all she's received is some Lysol wipes.