Health officials warn of hepatitis A outbreak in Denver

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DENVER — Four people who are experiencing homelessness have been diagnosed with hepatitis A this year in Denver, including three in the past four weeks, Denver Public Health said Monday.

Denver Public Health, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and several service providers are ramping up education, outreach and free vaccinations in response to the new cases.

Health officials said the risk of illness to the general public is low, but hepatitis A is highly contagious and is a vaccine-preventable disease of the liver.

Hepatitis A can be spread through the sharing of drugs and equipment, through fecal-oral contamination or intimate contact with a person who has the disease, officials said.

Symptoms include jaundice, nausea, cola-colored urine and fatigue, officials said.

Washing hands with soap and water after using a restroom and before handling food will reduce the risk of transmission, officials said.

Since fall 2017, Denver Public Health, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and other agencies have vaccinated more than 3,500 people who are at a high risk of contracting the disease.

“Our short-term response to this outbreak is to increase access to hepatitis A vaccination,” Dr. Bill Burman, executive director of Denver Public Health, said in a statement.

“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.

Health officials said children are at a low risk of contracting the disease because the vaccine has been a part of standard childhood immunizations for more than a decade.

But unvaccinated adults should consider a vaccination with their health care provider.

Anyone at a high risk of contracting hepatitis A can find a free vaccination clinic online or by calling the Denver Public Health immunization clinic at 303-602-3520.

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