Fri Dec 7th, 2018
State and local public health agencies along the Front Range are working to increase hepatitis A vaccination and education among high-risk populations, including people experiencing homelessness and people who use street drugs.
Eighteen cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Colorado so far in 2018, which is average. However, since Sept. 1, there have been seven cases in El Paso County.
“Widespread hepatitis A outbreaks are becoming more common in the U.S. among people who don’t have the advantages many of us have,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state communicable disease epidemiologist. “Unfortunately, living in close quarters, sharing food and other items, and not having routine health care can increase disease spread. Now’s the time to increase vaccination and education among these harder-to-reach populations.”
Public health is:
Hepatitis A virus is a liver infection that can be prevented with a safe, effective vaccine. It is highly contagious and can cause liver disease lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. Rarely, it causes death. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks that are contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. It also spreads through close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill.
To prevent future outbreaks, vaccination is recommended for:
The vaccine is also recommended for:
Hepatitis A vaccine is available at doctor’s offices and many retail pharmacies. People can check vaccinefinder.org to find a retail location. People who need help paying for vaccinations should contact their local public health department.
Good hygiene is also important in preventing hepatitis A spread. In addition to getting vaccinated, people should:
Symptoms of hepatitis A include yellow skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms develop between two to six weeks after an exposure, and people can spread the virus to others before symptoms appear.
In 2017, Colorado experienced an outbreak of hepatitis A. There were 63 cases, and of those, two were among people experiencing homelessness, three among people who reported injection drug use, and 20 in men who reported having sex with men.
People who have general questions about hepatitis A can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911, or email them at COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish.
For more information on hepatitis A, visit the CDC website, www.colorado.gov/cdphe/cdphenews.