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State health officials report an 8-fold increase in Hepatitis A cases in SE Michigan

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Health officials are concerned about a growing outbreak of Hepatitis-A in southeast Michigan.

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that attacks the liver.     It’s not usually fatal.  But two of the 107 patients recorded in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties since last August have died. 

“We do think that there are various pockets of this Hepatitis A,” says Dr. Eden Wells, the chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, “We’re not sure what’s driving it, but it is contagious.”

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.

Wells says state and local health departments are working together to respond to the outbreak, and the Centers for Disease Control is aware of the problem.

Health officials are urging people in southeast Michigan to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, especially if they may have been exposed to an infected person.

Individuals with hepatitis A are infectious for 2 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 2 months

Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for:

·  All children at age 1 year

·  Close personal contacts (e.g., household, sexual) of hepatitis A patients

·  Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs

·  Men who have sex with men

·  People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Persons with chronic liver disease have an elevated risk of death from liver failure

·  People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates

·  Travelers to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A

·  Family members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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