Hepatitis A

Colorado Hepatitis A Outbreak Report

Starting in November 2018, El Paso County Public Health has been working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to investigate an outbreak of hepatitis A with cases in El Paso, Pueblo and Fremont counties.

Although the source of the outbreak has not yet been determined, the majority of cases in El Paso County have several common factors including homelessness and the use of street drugs. Other high risk factors for hepatitis A infection include living with someone who has hepatitis A and traveling to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A.

In response to the hepatitis A outbreak, El Paso County Public Health is:

  • Conducting an extensive investigation to identify close contacts of the cases. Public Health is proactively providing hepatitis A vaccine to those identified contacts at no cost to the individuals.

  • Offering free hepatitis A vaccines through mobile outreach teams and locations serving individuals who are at high risk for being infected with the disease including homeless shelters, hospital emergency departments, criminal justice centers and substance use treatment facilities

  • Providing health education and guidance to retail food establishments for food handlers

Please contact us at (719) 578-3199 if you have any questions or concerns.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A virus is a liver infection that can be prevented with a safe, effective vaccine. It is highly contagious and can cause liver disease lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months.

How is hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person puts something in his or her mouth (body part, object, food, or drink) that is contaminated with the feces (poop) of an infected person. It also spreads through close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex, caring for someone who is ill or living with someone who has hepatitis A.

Who is most at risk for getting hepatitis A?

Anyone can get hepatitis A, however, these groups are at the highest risk and are encouraged to get a hepatitis A vaccination:

  • People who are transient or experiencing homelessness
  • People who use injection and non-injection street drugs
  • Men who have sexual contact with men
  • People who live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • People with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • 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

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?

Not all people infected with hepatitis A will experience illness. If symptoms develop, they can range from moderate to severe and may include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • occasional diarrhea
  • upper right abdominal pain
  • dark urine (like cola or strong tea)
  • light colored stools
  • jaundice (a yellow color to the skin or whites of the eyes)

Is hepatitis A treatable?

People experiencing the symptoms associated with hepatitis A should see their medical provider. Most people who get hepatitis A recover completely and don’t have lasting liver damage. Treatment includes rest, fluids, and good nutrition. Severe cases may need to be hospitalized.

How can hepatitis A be prevented?

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A.
  • Wash hands after using the restroom and before eating or preparing meals for yourself or others
  • Use your own towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils
  • Do not have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Do not share food, drinks, drugs, or smokes with other people
  • If you think you may have hepatitis A, see your medical provider
  • If you have hepatitis A, please cooperate with your local public health to help protect others