Hepatitis A outbreak in Colorado kills one, health officials say

By | September 13, 2019

At least one person has died in connection to a statewide outbreak of hepatitis A in Colorado, state health officials announced this week.

The Denver resident, who was not identified, “had risk factors consistent with those experienced by others in this outbreak,” which began roughly a year ago, officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a Thursday news release.

Since the outbreak began in October 2018, officials said the state has seen 163 cases of hepatitis A.

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“People affected by this outbreak may have less access to preventive health care, poorer nutrition, crowded living conditions, and greater health risks,” the release said. “That includes people experiencing homelessness, substance use issues, and incarceration, and contacts of people with those risk factors. The risks to other populations in this outbreak is low.”

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, a communicable disease epidemiologist in Colorado, told the Denver Post in a statement the person’s death is a dire reminder that “this outbreak is not over.”

“This unfortunate death reminds us that the critical work our local public health agencies have been doing to vaccinate at-risk populations must continue,” she said.

Some 8,000 people considered to be at risk for contracting the highly contagious virus have been vaccinated, health officials said.

The liver infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus typically spreads when a person eats or drinks something “contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person,” the health agency said.

Those who contract hepatitis A — not to be confused with hepatitis B or C, which are caused by different viruses — may be sick for “several weeks” and usually fully recover, according to the CDC. It is rare to die from the illness, though hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, typically in those who are 50 years of age or older.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, dark urine, vomiting, joint pain, and jaundice, among other signs.

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While hepatitis A infections do happen in the U.S., they’re more common in developing countries, where sanitation and hygiene tend to be poor, the CDC says.

The disease is preventable with a vaccine.

The news of the Colorado resident’s death comes after reports of at least one other person who died after contracting hepatitis A linked to an outbreak at a golf and tennis club in New Jersey. 


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