January 7, 2020

Public Health ramps up response to Colorado Hepatitis A outbreak

Garfield County Public Health has increased vaccination and educational outreach efforts in response to Colorado’s hepatitis A outbreak. The outbreak has sickened more than 300 people since October 2018.

Most cases have resulted in hospitalization and two deaths have occurred. Though there have been cases reported on the Western Slope, the majority of the cases have been concentrated in the Denver area.

Those affected have primarily been people experiencing homelessness or unstable living conditions; people with substance use issues; and people who are or have recently been incarcerated in city or county jail facilities. There have also been cases among men who have had sexual intercourse with other men.

Individuals in these groups are at greater risk of contracting hepatitis A and may be able to receive vaccination at no charge through Garfield County Public Health.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is a serious illness that can last for weeks or even months. It is found in the blood and stool of an infected person and is spread easily from person to person. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, joint pain, fever, fatigue, dark-colored urine or yellow skin or eyes.

The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective in preventing a person from becoming infected with the hepatitis A virus. People who are at risk for hepatitis A should get vaccinated. You can also reduce risk by washing your hands thoroughly, as the virus can be present on surfaces. The risk of illness to the general public is low. The hepatitis A vaccine has been part of standard childhood immunizations for more than 10 years. Unvaccinated adults should discuss vaccination with their health care providers.

If you think you may have hepatitis A, or are at risk, you should see a healthcare provider. Garfield County Public Health has hepatitis A vaccine available for children over 12 months of age and for adults. For more information, contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-945-6614.

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