Hepatitis A Outbreak Awareness
The September meeting of the Coordinating Committee welcomed representatives from Tri-County Health, Denver Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to discuss the recent increase in cases of Hepatitis A in the metro area.
In a presentation facilitated by Metro Community Provider Network, Jennifer Chase, Carol McDonald and Rachel Herlihy discussed the origins of this outbreak, the current situation in Colorado and plans already underway to address it.
In 2017, Colorado has witnessed a sharp increase in Hepatitis A cases. As of September 29th, 57 cases have been reported, already well over twice the 2016 yearly total, and one person has died. Two of these cases occurred in people experiencing homelessness in El Paso County and the Western Slope. They both traveled to southern California before they were infected, where an ongoing Hep A epidemic has claimed the lives of 17 and a further 337 people have been hospitalized.
Many of the victims in San Diego are people experiencing homelessness. In addition to that population, men who have sex with men (MSM) and IV and non-IV drug users seem to be disproportionately affected.
Hepatitis A transmission has begun affecting those experiencing literal homelessness, who are particularly at risk due to lack of access to restrooms and handwashing facilities on a regular basis. So, public health agencies are reaching out to homeless services providers for ideas on how best to address this issue. There is a three part plan to prevent this outbreak from spreading any further, as it has in San Diego. Health care agencies plan to conduct (1) education and outreach efforts (2) a vaccination campaign, and (3) environmental control measures. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment already developed materials with simple, direct information that can be posted at shelters, clinics and provider offices.
Please click here for more information on Hepatitis A or to download outreach materials. You can also order pre-printed materials from your local public health agency.
Hepatitis A is transmitted through oral-fecal contact. Examples include contaminated food or drinks, sexual contact with an infected person or poor hand hygiene. Symptoms include acute fever, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and jaundice, which results from liver inflammation. Victims are contagious from two weeks before the onset of symptoms to a week after jaundice sets in. A vaccine is available and is administered in two doses 6-12 months apart, though even a single dose is often enough to provide protection.