Michigan Opens Emergency Operations Center For Hepatitis A

LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan has activated the State Emergency Operations Center to help coordinate its response to an outbreak of hepatitis A that may be spreading beyond the southeastern portion of the state.

Wednesday’s announcement from Lt. Gov. Brian Calley came a day after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it activated the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center.

“The health and safety of Michiganders is the top priority as we work to contain and prevent this deadly virus from spreading further, “ Calley said in a statement. “Activating the SEOC will ensure that all state and local agencies are working together to combat this outbreak.”

Since August 2016, officials have received reports of 457 confirmed cases, including 18 deaths, in Huron, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The disease attacks the liver and causes symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever and jaundice.

The CHECC provides support to impacted jurisdictions including local health departments, hospitals, EMS, healthcare coalitions and other healthcare providers. This coordination and communication support includes responding to requests for health-related resources, developing and distributing guidelines and educational materials to meet the needs of this outbreak.

The health department, meanwhile, says it’s continuing to urge vaccinations for the highest risk individuals, including people with a history of substance use and men who have sex with men.

Vaccination is also recommended for the following:

  • Health care workers who have direct contact with patients
  • People who use injection and non-injection illegal drugs
  • People who participate in commercial exchange of sexual practices
  • People who are homeless or in transient living situations
  • People who are or have recently been incarcerated
  • Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients
  • Food handlers
  • People with liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Persons with chronic liver disease have an elevated risk of death from liver failure.
  • Any person who wishes to be immune to hepatitis A
  • People who live, work, or recreate in SE Michigan and are concerned about getting hepatitis A

The virus is most commonly spread from person-to-person by the fecal-oral route. Most infections result from contact with an infected household member or sex partners. Sometimes, infection results from food or drink that is contaminated with the virus. It is not spread through coughs or sneezes. Anyone who has hepatitis A can spread it to others for 1-2 weeks before symptoms appear.

Frequent hand-washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom and before handling food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A, health officials say.

More information about the hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan and current recommendations are available at www.michigan.gov/hepatitisAoutbreak.

Learn more about the virus, and about prevention, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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