The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hepatitis Outbreak Hits California

Nov 13, 2017

When a Los Angeles cop came down with hepatitis A, police union officials asked the city to vaccinate 1,600 cops.

“Can’t do,” said city officials, “We have only 100 hepatitis A vaccines.”

One hundred vaccines? In the middle of an hepatitis A outbreak, when California has declared a state of emergency, the city of Los Angeles has only 100 vaccines available???

This alone shows that the public’s health is not an item near the top of the list of priorities of L.A.’s public officials, to say the least.

In fact, the public officials’ indifference to the well-being of the population has, at least partially, made this hepatitis A outbreak possible in the first place.

This outbreak in California, which began in San Diego County and spread to Los Angeles and Santa Cruz Counties, has been thriving mainly among homeless people, thanks to extremely unsanitary conditions.

Widespread homelessness has been spreading as companies cut jobs and pay. Home prices and rents have been skyrocketing – pushing many more into homelessness.

Instead of treating homelessness as a social problem and providing support for the homeless, public officials criminalize the homeless and try to push them away from wealthy neighborhoods. That’s how, for example, it’s possible that on L.A.’s skid row there are only nine toilets available to the 1,800 people who sleep there! Many homeless people have to defecate in the street – and the hepatitis A virus gets transferred to other people. Being unable to wash hands spreads the contamination further.

Once there is an outbreak like hepatitis A, the capitalist system also causes it to spread faster. The hepatitis A vaccine is so expensive. The companies that make it (pharma giants Merck and GlaxoSmithKline) set the price high to increase their profit, not to make it affordable.

Hepatitis A is often called a “third-world disease,” because it spreads due to a severe lack of sanitation, combined with poverty. But precisely those conditions have been existing – and spreading – in wealthy Southern California. Like the poverty of the “third world” itself, the avoidable rise of hepatitis A in supposedly “first-world” California is a direct product of the capitalist system.