Two months after Denver declared its outbreak of hepatitis A, the viral disease has taken the life of a resident of the Mile High City.

“Deaths from hepatitis A are rare, but they can occur, especially when people who have other medical conditions get the disease,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s infectious disease epidemiologist.

“This unfortunate death reminds us that the critical work our local public health agencies have been doing to vaccinate at-risk populations must continue,” she added. “This outbreak is not over.”

Colorado’s hepatitis A outbreak began on Oct. 1, 2018. Through Aug. 28, 2019, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 140 cases in the Centennial State. CDC says 102 hepatitis A cases in Colorado required hospitalization, a 70 percent rate.

During the past 30 months, the United States has recorded 24,952 hepatitis A infections and 244 deaths. Nationally, the hospitalization rate is 60 percent.

Hepatitis A spreads through person-to-person contact. The contamination of food and water is sometimes a factor. Drug users and people living in unsanitary conditions are believed to be fueling the current outbreaks around the country. Infected restaurant workers put their customers at risk.

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) spent the last week investigating a case of hepatitis A in a food service worker that could have led to possible exposure for restaurant customers.

Mississippi joined the hepatitis A outbreak last April 1.  It has logged 31 cases to date.   Twenty or 65 percent required hospital care.   The state has not had a hepatitis A death.

MSDH said an employee of Dixie Depot Courtyard Lane deli, 6241 Highway 613 in Lucedale (Agricola area), who handles food has been diagnosed with hepatitis A infection.  After determining the dates and times the employee worked during August,  MSDH went about contacting customers and offering vaccines.

“While the risk of transmission is likely low, the management and staff of Dixie Depot are cooperating with us to prevent new illnesses as a result of this exposure,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “We recommend that anyone who ate at this restaurant during these times should consider getting a hepatitis A vaccination if they have not been previously immunized.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that causes fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) and abdominal pain and dark colored urine. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person. If you think you have symptoms of hepatitis A, you should contact your healthcare provider.

Everyone can prevent the spread of hepatitis A by carefully washing hands with soap and water, including under the fingernails, after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food will help prevent the spread of this disease.

As a reminder, there is an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and surrounding states affecting those who use drugs, those who are in jail or were recently in jail, those with unstable housing or who are homeless, and men who have sex with men.

The MSDH continues to recommend hepatitis A vaccination for those specific groups as well.

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