Preventing and controlling emerging and reemerging transmissible diseases in the homeless

Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Sep;14(9):1353-9. doi: 10.3201/eid1409.080204.


Homelessness is an increasing public health problem. Because of poor living conditions and limited access to healthcare systems, homeless persons are exposed to many communicable infections. We summarize the intervention measures reported to be efficient for the control and the prevention of common transmissible infections among homeless populations. Evidence suggests that appropriate street- or shelter-based interventions for targeted populations are the most efficient methods. Depending on the populations targeted, these interventions may include education, free condom distribution, syringe and needle prescription programs, chest radiography screening for tuberculosis, directly observed therapy for tuberculosis treatment, improvement of personal clothing and bedding hygiene, and widespread use of ivermectin for scabies and body louse infestation. Systematic vaccination against hepatitis B virus, hepatitis A virus, influenza, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and diphtheria is strongly recommended. National public health programs specific to homeless populations are required.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Bartonella quintana
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control
  • Homeless Persons*
  • Humans
  • Lice Infestations / epidemiology
  • Lice Infestations / prevention & control
  • Pediculus
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health
  • Scabies / epidemiology
  • Scabies / prevention & control
  • Trench Fever / epidemiology
  • Trench Fever / prevention & control
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control


  • Antitubercular Agents