Hepatitis A outbreak spreads to Routt County; health officials urging vaccination
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Public Health is investigating a recently reported case of hepatitis A in an adult who resides in Routt County, according to local health officials.
In September, another case of hepatitis A occurred in an adult diagnosed in the Denver area, but they were likely exposed to the virus while in Routt County. It has been determined that hepatitis A is likely being transmitted in Routt County through person-to-person spread, according to Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow.
“Routt County has recently been touched by the hepatitis A outbreak, which has been taking place since 2018 in Colorado,” Ladrow confirmed Thursday.
Colorado has seen 188 cases of hepatitis A in connection with an outbreak that has been occurring in the state since October 2018. The outbreak primarily affects the homeless population, those who are incarcerated and those who inject illicit substances. It is also affecting marijuana users who share their paraphernalia.
Hepatitis A is a very rare yet highly contagious virus that infects the liver and can cause liver disease lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting months. Rarely, it can cause death.
Proactive measures are being taken to mitigate the outbreak, according to Ladrow. The health department has initiated vaccinations to at-risk populations and is providing education to providers and community partners.
“We are especially concerned about transmission that might occur when people share marijuana or drugs and drug equipment with each other,” Ladrow said.
Hepatitis A is preventable and outbreaks can be stopped if people receive the vaccine. Residents should practice good handwashing, especially after using the restroom, before preparing food for others and before sharing items.
It usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks that are contaminated by small, undetected amounts of feces from an infected person. It also can spread through close personal contact with an infected person through sex, caring for someone who is ill or sharing drugs or drug equipment with someone who may be ill.
The hepatitis A vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and many retail pharmacies. Individuals can check vaccinefinder.org to find a retail location.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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