Officials with Seattle-King County Public Health report they are investigating increases in cases of several infectious diseases, particularly among the homeless population.

Image/Janice Carr
Image/Janice Carr

The diseases include group A streptococcus, Shigella and Bartonella quintana infections.

According to the Health Officer and Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology, Dr. Jeff Duchin, homeless people are at increased risk for a wide range of health problems, including infectious diseases.

Duchin said currently they are investigating outbreaks of group A streptococcus and Shigella, as well as a cluster of infections transmitted by a body lice called Bartonella quintana.

The county has seen an increase in group A strep infections among the general population, including the homeless since 2016. Cases have nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017.

The gastrointestinal disease, Shigellosis been increasing in King County since 2013, with a total of 164 cases being reported in 2017 compared to an average of 89 cases per year over the past 5 years.

Since Dec. 2017, an increase in cases among homeless has been noted.

Duchin also notes that health officials are investigating a cluster of three Bartonella quintana cases among people living homeless in King County since mid-2017. All the patients were hospitalized, two had infection of the heart valves, and one had a blood stream infection.

Affordable, 5 Minute Testing with our at-home testing kits for Syphilis. No doctor or lab visits required. Order now!

Bartonella quintana infections are carried by body lice and live in infested clothing and bedding. Body lice bite people, but do not live on their bodies.

Dr. Duchin says they are also on the lookout for hepatitis A, as a number of other cities have experienced outbreaks in the homeless population.