According to an internist at the New York University School of Medicine, the burgeoning number of homeless people in the cities of America, particularly Los Angeles, could see a surge in a disease thought uncommon since the Middle Ages: leprosy.
Dr. Marc Siegel, of New York University’s Langone Health, writing in The Hill, notes that the CDC reports that between 100 and 200 new cases of leprosy are annually reported in the U.S. He adds that a USC study found that of the 187 leprosy patients treated at its clinic between 1973 to 2018, most came from Mexico, where leprosy is more common. Siegel points out, “Leprosy is still more prevalent in Central America and South America, with more than 20,000 new cases per year. Given that, there is certainly the possibility of sporadic cases of leprosy continuing to be brought across our southern border undetected.”
Then Siegel addresses Los Angeles:
And it seems only a matter of time before leprosy could take hold among the homeless population in an area such as Los Angeles County, with close to 60,000 homeless people and 75 percent of those lacking even temporary shelter or adequate hygiene and medical treatment. All of those factors make a perfect cauldron for a contagious disease that is transmitted by nasal droplets and respiratory secretions with close repeated contact.
The Daily Mail notes, “Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, affects 250,000 people worldwide every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention … The bacteria behind the infection, Mycobacterium leprae, attacks nerves in the body, which can lead to the characteristic ‘peeling’ skin. Untreated, this can cause paralysis of the hands and feet.”
Los Angeles soaring homeless problem has also triggered an outbreak of typhus. The Los Angeles Times reported in June:
CatsUSA Pest Control, brought in to assess areas outside City Hall and nearby buildings, warned that homeless people create “harborage for rodents” … The company said it found “poor sanitary conditions” — including leftover food, human waste and hypodermic needles — and recommended that the city clear away the homeless population living in the Civic Center.
David Costa, building construction and maintenance superintendent, stated, “The homeless are using the grated areas above the pits as their bathroom and relieving themselves, This is also attracting the rats. Custodial will need to do some hazmat cleaning of the grates and the pits. There are even hypodermic needles being tossed in the pits along with human waste and other garbage.”
The Times added, “County health officials also declared a typhus outbreak last year in downtown L.A. and one Los Angeles city employee, Deputy City Atty. Elizabeth Greenwood, has filed a $5-million legal claim against the city, saying she contracted typhus while working in her office at City Hall East.”
Siegel said last February, “Simply cleaning up the garbage in so-called ‘typhus zones’ will not solve the problem, as people who have nowhere to go and nowhere to dispose of their waste will simply make more. And more garbage means more rats which means more fleas which means more typhus.”