DENVER (CBS4)– Thousands of people have been vaccinated in a hepatitis A outbreak that began last fall. Colorado public health professionals have vaccinated nearly 6,000 people in at-risk populations since October 2018.

There have been 52 hepatitis A cases in the outbreak so far that include people experiencing homelessness and/or substance abuse issues, people who are incarcerated and those who have come into contact with them.

(Hepatitis A vaccine (credit: CBS)

“Hep A is completely preventable, and outbreaks can be stopped if people receive the vaccine,” said Nicole Comstock, deputy director of the Communicable Disease Branch at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a statement. “Colorado’s local public health agencies have done a remarkable job providing the vaccine to those who need it most, and in doing so preventing cases and associated health care costs.”

Vaccinations are being conducted across Colorado but have been concentrated in counties with outbreak cases, primarily El Paso and Fremont counties, adjacent counties and those along the Front Range.

Additional Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus 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. Rarely, it causes death. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from 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 sharing drugs or drug equipment with someone who may be ill.

To prevent additional illnesses and outbreaks, public health is focused on getting vaccine for:

  • People who are transient or experiencing homelessness.
  • People with substance use issues, such as use of injection and non-injection drugs.
  • People who are in county or city jails.
  • People who live with, have close contact with, or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A vaccine is available at doctor’s offices and many retail pharmacies. People can check vaccinefinder.org to find a retail location. People who need help paying for vaccinations should contact their local public health agency.

To learn more about symptoms, prevention and vaccination recommendations, visit the department’s hepatitis A web page, which also includes a link to outbreak data. People who have general questions about hepatitis A can call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911, or by email at COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish.