Denver city health officials are accelerating education, outreach and free vaccination for hepatitis A, in response to a handful of new Denver cases.

Four persons who are currently experiencing homelessness have been diagnosed with hepatitis A this year in Denver, three of which were identified in the past four weeks.

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“Our short-term response to this outbreak is to increase access to hepatitis A vaccination,” said Dr. Bill Burman, executive director of Denver Public Health. “We are working with partners to provide almost daily vaccine clinics where at-risk persons live and get care: Stout Street Health Center, day shelters, syringe access programs, Civic Center Park, our own DPH clinics and many other sites.”

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“Longer term, we must work on the reasons why outbreaks of communicable diseases take place,” Burman continued. “Those reasons include crowded living conditions, lack of access to primary care, poor nutrition and lack of easy access to hand-washing, showers and other sanitation.”

Although the risk of illness to the general public is low, hepatitis A is a highly-contagious, vaccine-preventable disease of the liver. It can be spread through fecal-oral contamination, sharing drugs and equipment, or intimate contact with someone who is ill. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes), nausea, cola-colored urine, and fatigue. Handwashing with soap and water after using the bathroom and before handling food reduces the risk of transmission.