LANSING, Mich – It has been more than two years since public health authorities began fighting an outbreak of hepatitis A in Michigan and as of Nov. 7 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reporting 905 cases . In comparison, the state recorded 327 cases from 2011-2015.
Although weekly counts have declined from 15 to 20 cases per week to about three cases per week, the number of cases is still above average and public health authorities continue to require vaccination. This outbreak continues to have a high rate of hospitalization, with 726 people hospitalized (80.2) and 28 deaths.
"Our local health department partners have been instrumental in slowing this epidemic through outreach efforts and vaccination clinics geared toward high-risk individuals," said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS medical executive director. "With the vaccine available, all residents are encouraged to discuss their risk factors with their doctor or local health department."
Those with a history of injecting and non-injecting drug use, homelessness or temporary housing, incarceration, and men who have sex with men (MSM) are considered to be at increased risk of contracting the disease.
"This has been the largest outbreak of person-to-person hepatitis A in Michigan history," Wells said. "It is imperative that Michigan residents get vaccinated to protect themselves and prevent the spread of this outbreak in Michigan communities. Talk to your doctor to see if you are at risk of contracting hepatitis A."
Being vaccinated, practicing good handwashing and avoiding sex with infected partners are ways to avoid being infected. The hepatitis A vaccine is available at local pharmacies, through health professionals and in local health departments.
Vaccination clinics have been conducted at local health departments, shelters and popular homeless locations with the MSM population in an effort to go where these populations are likely to be present. More than 268,000 doses of vaccine were administered in outbreak jurisdictions. In addition, emergency departments have screened for hepatitis A and offered vaccination.
Hepatitis A is a serious and highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A and spreads by ingesting contaminated food or water, during sex or by living with an infected person.
Symptoms of hepatitis A may include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling tired / drowsy
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Dark urine
- Pale faeces (poop)
- Pain in the joints
For more information about hepatitis A, including a schedule of vaccination clinics, visit Michigan.gov/hepatitisAoutbreak.
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