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Hepatitis A outbreak reported in SE Michigan

Daniel Paquet
Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan officials are warning health care providers about an outbreak of hepatitis A in the city of Detroit and nearby Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne counties.

According to Michigan's Medicaid Director Chris Priest, hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is primarily spread between people through food, water, or oral contact with objects, including hands and eating utensils, contaminated by the feces of a hepatitis A-infected individual.

Priest said vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A and keep it from spreading. That's in addition to thorough hand washing after using the restroom and before handling food. 

In a letter this week to health care providers, Priest called on them to help end the outbreak by increasing vaccinations among the highest risk individuals, including the homeless, illegal drug users, sex workers, health care staff, and police. 

Priest said Michigan Medicaid, MIChild, and the Healthy Michigan Plan cover preventive, diagnostic and treatment services for hepatitis A.

There have been more than 300 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Detroit and the four nearby counties since August 2016, according to Dr. Caroline Castillo, medical officer at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  Castillo said that is 17 times higher than three years before. 

"The state is working very closely with local health departments to increase vaccination uptake in the area," said Castillo.

According to the weekly disease report issued by the MDHHS, the number of cases of hepatitis A statewide has almost tripled this year to date compared to all of 2016. So far in 2017, 348 cases of hepatitis A have been reported statewide, compared to 132 in 2016, 73 in 2015, and 54 in 2014.