LANSING (WWJ) – State health officials are alerting the public about a rise in cases of hepatitis A, a vaccine-preventable disease.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there’s been an eight-fold increase in the cases of hepatitis A over the past year in southeast Michigan.
From August 1, 2016 to March 21, 2017, officials say 107 cases of lab-confirmed hepatitis A have been reported in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, and the city of Detroit.
Ages of the cases range from 22 to 86 years, with an average age of 45 years. The majority of the cases have been male. Eighty-five percent of the cases have been hospitalized with two deaths reported. Approximately one-third of the cases have a history of substance abuse, and 16 percent of all cases are co-infected with hepatitis C.
No common sources of infection have been identified.
“Together with our local health partners, we are increasing outreach to vulnerable populations to raise awareness and promote vaccination of hepatitis A,” Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said in a statement. “Those who live, work, or play in the city of Detroit, as well as Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties are urged to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and talk to their healthcare provider about their risks.”
While the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, most adults have not been vaccinated and may be susceptible to the hepatitis A virus.
Individuals with hepatitis A are infectious for two weeks prior to symptom onset. Symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools. Symptoms usually appear over a number of days and last less than two months; however, some people can be ill for as long as six months. Hepatitis A can sometimes cause liver failure and death.
Risk factors for a hepatitis A infection include living with someone who has hepatitis A, having sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, or sharing injection or non-injection illegal drugs with someone who has hepatitis A. The hepatitis A virus can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water.
The health department encourages residents in the city of Detroit and Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to check their hepatitis A vaccination status and talk to their healthcare provider about their risks for hepatitis A.
Contact your local health department if you have questions or for more information:
• Macomb County Health Department at 586-469-5372
• Oakland County Health Department at 1-800-848-5533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Wayne County Communicable Disease Unit at 734-727-7078
• Detroit Health Department at 313-876-4000
For general information on hepatitis A, visit www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.