DENVER – Colorado health officials are concerned about a large increase in the number of hepatitis cases statewide.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says there have been 26 reported cases of hepatitis A so far since January. That’s more than the state typically sees in an entire year.
All the cases have occurred in adults and the majority of them are along the Front Range, with nine of them in El Paso County. Officials said nearly three quarters of the cases are in men and more than half of the male patients had sexual contact with other men. There have been no reported deaths but about half of the patients had to be hospitalized.
People typically come down with hepatitis A after eating or drinking foods that have been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Infection can also occur from sexual contact with an infected person, particularly when the anus is involved.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is by getting a vaccine.
“People at higher risk should get the hepatitis A vaccine, which is extremely safe and highly effective,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
Health officials recommend two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine, given six months apart for the following groups:
- All children (vaccine given at 1 year old)
- Men who have sex with men
- People who live with or have sex with someone with hepatitis A
- People who use illegal drugs (injected and not injected)
- People with chronic liver diseases like hepatitis b/c or cirrhosis
- Homeless individuals
- People traveling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A
- Caregivers of children recently adopted from countries where hepatitis A is common
- People who are treated with blood clotting-factor concentrates
Symptoms of hepatitis A typically show up two to six weeks after exposure and include yellow skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine and light-colored stool. In rare cases, the infection can lead to liver failure or death.
For more information, log on to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website.