Hepatitis A claims a life in Denver

It’s the first person to die in the city and the state from the disease’s current outbreak.
2 min. read
Dr. Seth Foldy, a Denver Health and Hospital Authority public health specialist, speaks at a news conference July 22 next to the banners that will be seen around Denver indicating where people considered at special risk of contracting hepatitis A can get a free vaccine. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

A Denver resident is the first Colorado hepatitis A fatality in a nationwide and unusually deadly outbreak that has primarily struck people experiencing homelessness or substance abuse.

Health officials said the unidentified man died in the past week and had one of the risk factors associated with the outbreak: experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, and contacts with people at risk. They would not elaborate.

"The risks to other populations in this outbreak is low," the state health department said in a statement Thursday.

Denver health officials said earlier this week that the outbreak had sickened more than 30 people since reaching the city in June. The disease was first detected in southern Colorado earlier this year and most of Colorado's cases so far have been in El Paso County.

The nationwide outbreak started in California in 2016 and so far more than 25,000 cases have been reported in 30 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only two states, including California, have declared their outbreaks ended.

Hepatitis A is rarely fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 250-plus deaths nationwide from the current outbreak is a higher rate that normal, an indication of the vulnerability of those affected.

Across the country, health officials have responded with vaccination drives and attempts to ensure people living on the streets have access to bathrooms and places to wash their hands with soap and water.

Generally the disease spreads from the feces of an infected person via food or drink.

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