Hepatitis A on the rise in Colorado

STATEWIDE — Twenty-six cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Colorado since January, which officials say is more than Colorado usually sees in a whole year.

Nine counties in Colorado have reported cases of hepatitis A, most of them located along the Front Range, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

They say all cases involve adults, and among those, 73 percent are men and over 50 percent of the men had sexual contact with other men.

Around half of the people who got sick were hospitalized, officials said. There have been no reported deaths at this time.

“We’re working closely with local public health agencies and community partners to reach people who need a hepatitis A vaccination,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. “People at higher risk should get the hepatitis A vaccine, which is extremely safe and highly effective.”

Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is contracted by ingesting food or drinks contaminated with stool from an infected person. Hepatitis A also can spread through sexual contact with an infected person, including oral-anal contact and when fingers or objects that have been in or near the anus of an infected person are placed in someone else’s mouth.

Symptoms develop between two and six weeks after an exposure and include:

  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stools

Officials say hepatitis A can be severe and last several weeks or months.

“People with hepatitis A can be contagious for two weeks before they have symptoms. They can spread the virus without knowing it,” Herlihy said. “It’s easy to protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated.”

People at higher risk for hepatitis A include men who have sexual contact with men, people who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A, people who inject drugs and people with chronic liver disease.

Hepatitis A vaccine is routinely recommended for children, but most adults have not been vaccinated, according to CDPHE. Two doses of the vaccine, given six months apart, are recommended for:

  • All children at age 1
  • Men who have sexual contact with men
  • People who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • People who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People who are homeless
  • People who are traveling to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A
  • Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People who are treated with blood clotting-factor concentrates

You can get a hepatitis A vaccine at your doctor’s office or any retail pharmacy. If you need help paying for vaccinations, contact your local public health department.

If’ you’re unsure whether or not you should be vaccinated, talk to your health care provider.

Anyone with general questions about hepatitis A can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911.

>> Click here for more information on hepatitis A.

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