Denver paying to house 16 homeless hepatitis A patients in area motels: Problem Solvers Investigation

DENVER — The city of Denver is housing 16 people who are homeless in five area motels who contracted hepatitis A, the FOX31 Problem Solvers have learned.

The revelation follows confirmation of Denver’s first death from Hepatitis A after an outbreak began in October 2018.

FOX31 Problem Solver Rob Low received confirmation that Denver Public Health is paying to put transient people who’ve contracted hepatitis A in area motels in order to keep them isolated from other homeless people who often live side by side on the streets or in close quarters at homeless shelters.

Denver Public Health has not revealed which motels are in question, but FOX31 has learned that the city considers this the best way to limit infections which tend to be more common and contagious among the homeless population.

The motels are aware of who Denver is putting in their rooms and what sanitation techniques must be made to accommodate them, but Denver Public Health says it’s “not customary practice” to inform motel customers of the health conditions of other guests.

Denver Public Health says putting patients in motels is more cost-effective than hospitals, which can’t do much to treat them once they’re infected.

Since Oct. 2018, 163 cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Colorado and now an unidentified Denver resident is the first person to die from the disease.

Across the state, public health providers have vaccinated 8,000 at-risk people in the last year.

The highly contagious virus causes liver disease usually lasts a few weeks to months but in rare cases can cause death.

Hepatitis A spreads through contaminated food and close contact with infected persons, either through sex, sharing drugs or caring for someone who is ill. The state health department said the hepatitis A vaccination administered within two weeks of exposure may prevent hepatitis A.

Thursday, the Jefferson County Jail confirmed one of its inmates has been hospitalized with hepatitis A and have authorized vaccinations be administered to inmates and jail staff.

JeffCo Jail plans to vaccinate 100 inmates by the end of the day Thursday.

The Denver Jail began vaccinations earlier this week and nearly 190 inmates are under hepatitis A protocols after a Denver inmate tested positive earlier this week.

Denver Public Health said the risk to fellow motel customers staying near hepatitis A patients is incredibly small.

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