WUOMFM

Concerns rise that hepititis A outbreak could become statewide problem

Oct 31, 2017

A public health coordination center is being activated, after indications that a regional hepatitis A outbreak could spread to other parts of the state. 

Most of the 457 people who have contracted hepatitis A since last summer live in southeast Michigan. But a few recent cases have been reported in counties in the thumb, as well as Ingham County. 370 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak began, and 18 people have died.

The state's Community Health Emergency Coordination Center supports public health groups on the front lines of fighting disease outbreaks, providing expertise, guidance and educational materials. The center was last activated in response to the Flint Water Crisis. It was also activated during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.

This hepatitis A oubreak is more complicated than usual because there's no single known source of contamination and it's being spread person to person.  

The state is urging hospitals and doctors to report possible cases of hepatitis A to the state immediately, and to vaccinate individuals at higher risk, including the homeless, inmates, men who have sex with men, people with hepatitis B and C, those with liver disease, and people with a history of substance abuse.

From the MDHHS website:

 

Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus.

It is found in the feces (poop) of people with hepatitis A. You can get hepatitis A by eating contaminated food or water, during sex, or just by living with an infected person. Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and you can be sick for several weeks. In some cases, people can die. Although not all people infected with hepatitis A experience illness, symptoms can include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • belly pain
  • feeling tired
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • dark urine
  • pale-colored feces (poop)
  • joint pain

There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of Hepatitis A transmission. Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness. While the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as a part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus. The best way to reduce the risk of getting hepatitis A is to get vaccinated with two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine. It is also recommended to wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing meals for yourself and others. Use your own towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils. Do not have sex with someone who has HAV infection or share food, drinks, or smokes with other people.