In wake of new hepatitis A cases, Denver health agencies increase disease education, vaccine access

Posted at 10:08 AM, Jul 22, 2019

DENVER — In the past month, three new cases of hepatitis A were confirmed in Denver, and local health agencies are stepping up their efforts in education, outreach and free vaccinations.

Denver Public Health, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and other Denver service providers are working to reduce the number of people infected by this highly contagious disease. Denver Health said they have seen a handful of new Denver cases recently.

Four people who are currently experiencing homelessness have been diagnosed with hepatitis A this year in Denver, and three of those cases were identified in the past month, according to Denver Health. Officials told Denver7 they think this could be the start of a new outbreak and are worried it could spread.

It’s part of their duty to now warn the public, Denver Health said. Dr. Bill Burman, executive director of Denver Public Health, said they are increasing access to the hepatitis A vaccine.

“We are working with partners to provide almost daily vaccine clinics where at-risk persons live and get care: Stout Street Health Center, day shelters, syringe access programs, Civic Center Park, our own DPH clinics and many other sites," he said.

Other local public health agencies have arranged preventative treatment as well.

Burman said outbreaks of communicable diseases often happen due to crowded living conditions, lack of access to primary care, poor nutrition and lack of handwashing, showers and other sanitation.

Hepatitis A, which is a disease of the liver, is preventable via vaccine. It spreads through fecal-oral contamination, sharing drugs and equipment, or intimate contact with a sick individual.

Symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes
  • Nausea
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain

Denver Health said washing your hands with soap and water after using the restroom and before handling food can reduce the risk of transmission.

Children generally have a low risk of hepatitis A because the vaccine has been part of the standard childhood immunizations for more than 10 years. Adults who are unvaccinated are encouraged to talk to their health care provider about getting the vaccine.

According to a hepatitis A outbreak report by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, there have been 97 cases between October 2018 and July 17, 2019 in the state. Sixty-six of them were hospitalized.

To find a free vaccination clinic, click here or call the Denver Public Health Immunization Clinic at 303-602-3520.