Health Dept. Working to Prevent Spread of Hep A in Larimer County
Colorado is a great place to live, but it has also been dealing with an outbreak of hepatitis A since 2017.
So far, the state has seen 322 cases of the disease across 17 counties, resulting in 232 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.
The disease is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It spreads when someone ingests the virus through food, drinks, objects, or fecal matter.
It can also spread through personal contact (sex, sharing drugs, or caring for someone who is ill) with an infected person.
The homeless, drug users, people who currently are or have been incarcerated, and men who have sex with men are especially at risk.
Symptoms of hepatitis A included mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen, and jaundice.
These symptoms will begin two to six weeks after someone is exposed to the virus, which can last anywhere from two weeks to over a month.
While the illness varies in severity, it is important to remember that even a mildly infected person can be highly contagious.
The Larimer County Health Department is working to prevent the disease from spreading further, as there have been no cases of hepatitis A in Larimer County related to the outbreak so far.
The department vaccinated 561 at-risk people in Larimer County in 2019, and will continue to do so in 2020.
"Our focus is on preventing the spread of hepatitis A, and we do this through vaccination," said Tom Gonzales, M.P.H., Public Health Director for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. "We're working with our partner agencies to provide free vaccines to anyone who might be at high risk for getting the disease."
Getting vaccinated is the way best way to prevent hepatitis A. The vaccination is routinely given to children, but since it was not available until the mid-1990s, many adults have not received one.
The department provides hepatitis A vaccinations by appointment. It is also available at doctors' offices, retail pharmacies, and outreach clinics.
Besides getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself from hepatitis A by washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating and preparing food.
Do not have sex with an infected person, and avoid sharing towels, toothbrushes, or other personal items with others.
More information about the disease can be found here.