Hepatitis A Health Alert: Record Number of Cases in Metro Detroit, Spreading through Michigan

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services activates Community Health Emergency Coordination Center in response to Hepatitis A outbreak in Southeast Michigan.

On October 31, 2017, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) activated the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center to coordinate response the hepatitis A outbreak in Southeast Michigan. The concern is the outbreak will continue to spread further through the state.

Hepatitis A cases in Metro Detroit have tripled in less than one year.

The city of Detroit and ten counties in Southeast Michigan are seeing record number of cases of hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease, and are warning residents and at-risk groups about the disease and precautions to take.

Since August 1, 2016, there have been 457 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in the City of Detroit, Ingham, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties reported to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Michigan Public Radio reported on October 30, 2017,

“Michigan has 14 times more hepatitis A cases than it did last year at this time, say epidemiologists with the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The outbreak, which is mainly in southeast Michigan, has sickened 457 people.  Of those, 370 have been hospitalized and 18 have died.

The outbreak is complicated.  There’s no single source such as food contamination – and many groups of people are at risk, including homeless people, drug users, people who are neither, and now there are more cases among men who have sex with men.”

 Vaccinate to prevent hepatitis A infection.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through a vaccination. Vaccination is recommended for all children, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus. Hepatitis A vaccination is included in the schedule of vaccines for children. The first dose in the two-vaccination series is typically given at 12–23 months of age, followed by a second dose 6–18 months later.

MDHHS is urging all health care providers to promote hepatitis A vaccination for certain industries and to the highest risk individuals, including:

  • Food Handlers
  • Health Care Workers
  • Person incarcerated in correctional facilities
  • Persons with underlying liver disease
  • Persons with a history of substance abuse
  • Persons who are homeless or in transient living
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Persons in close contact with any of the above groups
  • Persons who wish to be immune against hepatitis A

Michigan Urgent Care and Occupational Health offers hepatitis A vaccinations for industries and manufacturers the state has encouraged vaccination, including health care and food services. For businesses that wish to schedule hepatitis A vaccination for employees, please contact Michigan Urgent Care.  

Individuals wanting hepatitis A vaccination should contact their local county health department.

Hepatitis A is transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis A is found in the fecal matter (poop) and body fluids of an infected person and is easily transmitted from person to person when:

  • an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food,
  • a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected, and person
  • someone has sex or sexual contact with an infected person. (not limited to anal-oral contact).
    (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 3, 2016)

High risk groups for contracting hepatitis A.

While anyone can contract hepatitis A, certain groups of people are at higher risk and include:

  • Travel to or live in countries where Hepatitis A is common
  • Are family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where Hepatitis A is common
  • Live with someone who has Hepatitis A
  • Are men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Use illegal drugs, whether injected or not
  • Have clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • Have sexual contact with someone who has Hepatitis A
    (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 3, 2016)

Hepatitis A infection and symptoms.

Hepatitis A typically results in a mild illness, and many people who are infected may never realize they’re sick at all. The virus almost always goes away on its own and does not cause long-term liver damage. A hepatitis A-infected person may have no symptoms of the infection but will still be able to spread it. Those with symptoms of hepatitis A may experience:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Michigan Urgent Care and Occupational Health’s nine clinics located in Ann Arbor, Brighton, Canton, Dundee, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Livonia, Waterford, and Wyandotte are open every day of the year, including all holidays. Highly experienced and licensed providers evaluate and care for adult and pediatric injury and illness, and workplace screening, and injury prevention and care needs for businesses and manufacturers.